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Auditor and recorder will be appointed positions in Swift County, Minn.

BENSON -- Voters in Swift County overwhelmingly approved two separate measures Tuesday that will allow the County Commissioners to hire the auditor and recorder.

Giving up the right to elect those positions is not something Minnesota voters readily do.

Similar ballot measures were soundly defeated in neighboring Pope County and Big Stone County.

"We're pretty excited here," said Gary Hendrickx, chairman of the Swift County Commissioners. "It doesn't happen that often that these make it through, so we're somewhat surprised, but pleased."

The vote on measure one to appoint an auditor was approved in Swift County on a vote of 2,732 to 2,215, according to unofficial results.

The results were slightly different for the second question on appointing the recorder. That was approved on a vote of 2,764 to 2,160.

In Pope County, voters turned down a request to appoint the auditor/treasurer and recorder on a vote of 3,888 to 2,079.

In Big Stone County the defeat was even more severe.

A request to appoint the auditor/treasurer was defeated on a vote of 2,135 to 574.

"Very few ever pass through election," said Swift County Auditor Byron Giese, who is retiring this spring. "It says a lot for our voters. It says a lot for the fact that they trust the board."

The commissioners had originally hoped to get special legislation to allow appointing, rather than electing, the positions but local legislators refused to bring the bill to the Legislature.

The only other option was to seek voter approval.

"The voters decided for us," said Hendrickx. "It's done now. It's 100 percent complete."

The change in how the two positions are filled comes at a time of transition for Swift County.

Longtime County Recorder Donna Lilleberg retired earlier this year and the commissioners appointed Mary Amundson to fill her unexpired term.

Hendrickx said he expects the board will take action to make her appointment permanent.

Giese is retiring this spring midway through his 32nd year in office, which expires at the end of 2014.

Whether the measure passed or not, the board would have had to appoint someone to fill the term.

Hendrickx said they will interview prospective employees for the job this winter. Because the auditor will no longer be subject to keeping his job by getting elected, Hendrickx predicts the job will attract a large number of candidates.

Job security won't depend on voters but on "job performance," Hendrickx said.

Because the county is also in the process of hiring a county administrator, the duties of the new auditor will be revised, he said.

Voters will still be able to elect the county treasurer. The commissioners did not ask voters to weigh in on whether that position should also be appointed, in part because current County Treasurer Ron Vadnais is not retiring at this time.

Meanwhile, the commissioners agreed Tuesday to hire Wayne Knutson as the new assessor to replace Ed Pederson whose contract was terminated by the Commissioners earlier this year following an unusual incident when Pederson brought a non-functioning gun into the courthouse.

Pederson waged a last-minute write-in campaign for county board in District 2 in what turned out to be a close race against incumbent Commissioner Gary Klemm.

Klemm had 539 votes and Pederson had 425 votes.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750