Appointment or election: Commissioners debate county auditor-treasurer, recorder positions

The discussion has been happening for over two years.

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With a full decision in the future, the Wadena County commissioners debated having the county positions of auditor-treasurer and recorder as appointed instead of elected on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The process has been ongoing for over two years with a public hearing and possible board action to come.

Wadena County helped lead legislation with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) on changing Minnesota State Statute 375A for counties to have the option of appointing these positions instead of electing them. The statute was amended in 2019. Commissioner Jim Hofer said a minority of counties still use the elected process. The last Wadena County election for the positions was in 2018, with auditor-treasurer Heather Olson and recorder Soledad Henriksen as the winners.

Minnesota Statutes 2019 Chapter 375A by inforumdocs on Scribd

Over the two years, the process has taken a backseat to priorities including the COVID-19 pandemic though the personnel committee has continued discussions on the possible change, according to county attorney Kyra Ladd and commissioner Chuck Horsager. Hofer said the goal of the appointing these positions is efficiency rather than waiting for the next election.


“This process today starts that process (of public hearing and possible board action). There’s a wealth of opportunity for others to weigh in on this topic, including the new incumbents,” Hofer said.

The discussion on Election Day was not lost on Commissioner Jon Kangas who referenced the election and the two new commissioners to replace commissioners Hofer and Horsager several times. With this and the importance of the decision in mind, Kangas wanted to remove the agenda item; commissioners approved the discussion.

For Kangas, the question is why the positions weren’t listed on the Nov. 3 general election ballot as a voter approved referendum since the process has been over two years. He said it would be best to hear through votes rather than relying on a public hearing. The COVID-19 health and safety precautions could limit the number of people who would attend based on unfamiliarity with technology, as Kangas said. The next time the referendum could appear on the ballot would be in two years since having a special election could be costly, as Ladd said.

Horsager said one of the problems with the election process is the possibility of an 18-year-old with no experience gaining the position. Kangas noted this can also happen with the commissioner position.

Commissioner Sheldon Monson has received all positive responses from constituents except one person and Kangas has received only negative responses about the appointment process. Kangas is also concerned about possible future financial implications and that the board deciding to use the appointment process would be like a “dictatorship.” The board would need to pass the resolution for changing to an appointment process by a super majority vote after the public hearing.

Olson and Henriksen would complete their terms before any changes to the position processes and they would have to agree to the appointment. Both would then be appointed in possible four year terms, according to Ladd.

Kangas proposed that any action on the process be postponed until the new commissioners begin in 2021. The motion died due to the lack of a second.

The commissioners, except Kangas, did approve the process of a public hearing and board action (of pass, fail or tabling) to go forward.


The public hearing will be on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. and the commissioners will meet on Dec. 15 at 9 a.m.

In other actions, the commissioners approved:

  • An application with the 2025 Area Transportation Improvement Program for improvements on County State Aid Highway 6 from TH 71 to CSAH 23. The road would be upgraded to a 10 ton axle from a 9 ton axle with the road remaining the same size.

  • A permit for a private lodge on Blueberry Pines Golf Course for residents to have social gatherings as well as exercise space.

  • An annual agreement with the Department of Public Safety for Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021 including a grant of $51,075. The county pays the grant amount and is then reimbursed by the state on a quarterly basis. The grant is for work related to the Towards Zero Deaths goal including overtime enforcement for DWI, distracted driving and additional dispatchers during heavy traffic times, as Wadena County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Bryan Savaloja said.

  • Hiring Jason Schik and BHH for assessing and reviewing the structural conditions of the Friendly Rider transit building for $2,500 from the transit reserve account.

The commissioners also had a closed session to review Wadena County Public Health Director Cindy Pederson as well as a closed session on negotiation strategies for labor contracts.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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