Rocky or smooth, state transitions go on
ST. PAUL -- Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and State Auditor Pat Anderson recalled different introductions to their posts. Kiffmeyer said her Democratic predecessor did little to help her prepare for the new job, while Anderson said she receiv...
ST. PAUL -- Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and State Auditor Pat Anderson recalled different introductions to their posts.
Kiffmeyer said her Democratic predecessor did little to help her prepare for the new job, while Anderson said she received more direction from the DFLer she succeeded.
The two Republicans, who lost re-election Nov. 7, said they will set political differences aside and help ease their Democratic successors into their new positions.
State auditor and secretary of state are among three statewide elected Minnesota offices changing hands in January. The transitions already are under way and appear mostly smooth, but there are indications the secretary of state changeover could be rocky.
Secretary-elect Mark Ritchie said Kiffmeyer agreed to meet with him after Thanksgiving, which is later than he had sought. The Democrat said he understood Kiffmeyer's desire to first take care of her remaining duties, throwing a jab at her administration of the recent election.
"I'm very happy that they're focusing on the work of the post-election, because there were a lot of problems," Ritchie said, citing a lawsuit filed on behalf of college students who encountered voter registration difficulties.
Kiffmeyer said she will help her successor learn more about the office before he is sworn in. Kiffmeyer said she went without that when she succeeded former Secretary of State Joan Growe.
"It took a while for folks to realize that in the office we had absolutely nothing," she said, claiming a lack of cooperation hampered her transition in 1998.
Growe, now retired, said the outgoing officeholder isn't obligated to do much in a transition, but she gave Kiffmeyer plenty of help.
"Our office responded to any request for information that they had," she said. "As far as I was concerned, I thought it went very smoothly."
Kiffmeyer said she expects complaints from Ritchie about the way she will leave the office, and she plans to document office information and conduct a walk-through with a Capitol Security officer before her term ends to "protect my record and my reputation" against "any potential false claim."
"I'm not that kind of person," said Ritchie, adding that he thanked Kiffmeyer for her service.
As he prepares to become the state's top election official, Ritchie said he will review the office budget and meet with lawmakers handling voting-related legislation. He said he also wants to hear from "stakeholders" such as local election judges and business officials who do work with the secretary's office.
The auditor's post is being turned over to Democrat Rebecca Otto, who will manage 120 employees in six offices across Minnesota. Anderson and Otto, who ran feisty campaigns, were cordial when they sat down together Thursday in their first meeting since the election.
"You owe it to the citizens of the state, and the staff, to make sure that you're doing everything to help your successor succeed," said Anderson, adding that she and her predecessor, Judi Dutcher, met before the office changed hands in 2003.
Anderson, who hasn't ruled out running for office again, said Otto will need time to get familiar with her new role, but the auditor's work will continue.
"You're not running a fast-food business. The manager doesn't need to know how to make tacos on the first day," she said. "The state auditor doesn't directly do audits. The job is more of a CEO. You're setting policy, making decisions."
There also will be a new attorney general next year, but that office will remain in DFL control. Lori Swanson will replace Attorney General Mike Hatch in January, but said she needs little introduction to the job.
"It's obviously a very smooth transition because I've been in the office," said Swanson, the solicitor general and for years a top Hatch aide.
Swanson said her transition will include meeting with the other constitutional officeholders, including Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and state agency commissioners. The attorney general's office serves as legal counsel for state departments.