New chapter as Yellow Medicine Co., Minn., changes up courthouse offices

GRANITE FALLS -- N.T. Hoxsie landed in the county history book when in November of 1872 he took the oath of office as the first auditor in Yellow Medicine County.

GRANITE FALLS -- N.T. Hoxsie landed in the county history book when in November of 1872 he took the oath of office as the first auditor in Yellow Medicine County.

A lot has changed in the 139 years since, but most small, rural counties in Minnesota still retain the original form of government and statutory offices to conduct their operations as was the case when Hoxsie took his oath in Yellow Medicine City, which is now a long-gone ghost town.

Today it's the start of a new chapter in Yellow Medicine County, where Lois Bonde will likely be the last to hold the title of auditor/treasurer in the county when she retires Friday.

As of Nov. 1, the small county (pop. 11,080) essentially moved away from a government format of the 1800s and re-organized under a modern model, according to Ryan Krosch, the county's first full-time county administrator.

Bonde's tax and financial duties as auditor are being assigned to the county administrator and a newly hired financial director.


Similar changes are being made for the duties in the county recorder's office, where Kay Zempel will retire at year's end after 40 years of service to the county and as the county's last recorder.

The restructuring taking place in the auditor, treasurer, recorder and assessor offices is all about simplicity, organization and efficiency, Krosch said. The goal is to improve how services are provided, according to Bonde, Zempel and Krosch.

The reorganization was made possible when the county obtained special legislation in 2008 to make the positions of auditor/treasurer and recorder appointed, rather than elected. The county was aware that Bonde and Zempel were contemplating retirement, and thought it would be the right time to start the reorganization.

Bonde is a certified public accountant and has 19 years of experience with the county. Zempel began her county career in the recorder's office. Both emphasized that the challenges and complexities of their jobs have grown immensely through the years, and that they were fortunate to have learned on the job. They believe it would be very difficult today for someone without professional training or experience to step into the roles.

Yet in most counties, anyone can seek election for those offices without any minimum qualifications.

The county is still required to fulfill the statutory duties of their offices, but now the County Board of Commissioners has the authority to delegate how it's done.

Along with hiring a finance director, it will be employing its first human resources director.

There are 12 full-time employees on the first floor of the courthouse in Granite Falls, where the original auditor, treasurer, recorder and assessor offices are located. There will remain 12 full-time workers with the retirements of Bonde and Zempel and the additions of financial and human resources professionals.


Krosch said no immediate savings are expected by the reorganization. Long term, he is confident that the streamlining of service and cross-training of employees in the offices will result in savings.

In many ways, he said the reorganization means the county will operate as do most municipalities in the state. Many of the state's medium- and large-sized counties also have reorganized under a similar format, separating duties and placing them under the responsibility of professionals trained in those areas.

Small, rural counties have not evolved as quickly in these areas, said Krosch, but that may be changing. He's been receiving inquiries from other small, rural counties interested in the reorganization.

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