The idea of making the Wadena County auditor/treasurer and recorder positions appointed rather than elected is one that has been bounced around for 10-12 years according to Wadena County Commissioner Jim Hofer.
Conversations continued on the subject during the regular commission meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 18. Hofer said he had conversations with other members including Sen. Paul Gazelka, Sept. 13-14, at the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) Fall Policy Conference.
In those conversations Hofer learned that 30 of Minnesota's 87 counties now appoint their auditor/treasurer and recorder.
Right now in order to pass such a change it takes a ⅘ majority of the board to approve, after seeking approval from the legislature. If the voters don't agree with changes the board makes, they can sign a petition against it. It takes a petition signed by at least 10 percent of voters in the previous general election to force a reverse referendum, Hofer said, so there are protections in place for voters to have their say.
Another built in safety is for the elected official. Hofer said that since an election is in full swing, the change would not take place until the end of the next term of whoever is elected in November. So, the persons last elected as auditor/treasurer or recorder before the resolution has been adopted serve in those offices until the completion of the terms to which they were elected.
Commissioners indicated they were still on board with the idea of making the seats appointed, but it was unclear how quickly this decision could move forward.
Hofer said his stance is he wants to ensure a qualified candidate is the one overseeing the $23 million budget at the county, which he feels could be done by appointment. And once they have a qualified person in the position, he'd like to keep the person there as they can become more valuable and more knowledgeable about the position over time. Having to start over with someone new after each election cycle was an option he'd like to avoid.
Hofer said there was a time when the county had 14 elected officials.
"Times have changed," he said.
County program aid
Discussion briefly centered on $600,000 of county program aid that never made it into county funds, but has now made it to the county, according to commissioner Bill Stearns.
The funds were the second part of $1.2 million that were allocated by the Legislature for the county to use, however they needed to use it, according to Stearns. Stearns said special funds like these are often allocated based on the need of the county.
Stearns said Wadena County Auditor/Treasurer Judy Taves went to work finding the funds and after some back and forth with the state, it has now made its way to the county. Taves was then looking for direction on how the funds should be used. Commissioners indicated $150,000 would go to Human Services. Other portions could be metered out over four years, commissioner Hofer said.
Wadena County Commissioner Sheldon Monson was not present at the meeting. Bill Stearns stepped in to lead the board in his absence.