Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 19, 2001

Some county positions may become appointed rather than elected

By John Holler

Elections are something many people hold sacred, a right that a democracy provides to let the people decide who represents them in national, state and local government.

However, if Wright County and many other counties have their way, two elected positions will be taken off future ballots.

At the Feb. 13 board meeting, the commissioners discussed a plan in the platform of the Association of Minnesota Counties to have the positions of auditor/treasurer and county recorder go from being elected positions to positions of appointment by the county board.

Wright County is one of 25 counties that is seeking the choice of having the option to appoint or elect, and the AMC plan is to give every county the option to go how it sees fit.

"(AMC) wants to make it a choice for all counties to either elect or appoint those positions," Commissioner Ken Jude said. "There are pros and cons to both ways of doing it. The people in these positions are technicians. They don't make policy that other elected officials do. Policy making is the county board's job."

Jude added that up until recently, even positions like the county sheriff didn't require that person to be a sworn law enforcement officer and judges didn't have to be practicing attorneys. In essence, a popular individual with no specific background in those fields could win election to one of those positions.

While the auditor/treasurer and recorder positions both have some requirements, the positions are too vital to the operation of the county to potentially allow someone inadequately prepared to get voted into office.

The county will be following the progress of the bill as it goes through the Legislature, but Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said he would prefer that the bill be an all or nothing proposition - statewide or not at all. Meanwhile, Jude stressed that the county is not trying to prohibit voters, but that these positions are exceptions to the voting norm.

"We're not trying to take away anything from the voters," Jude said. "However, these are highly technical positions, and a process to hire and maintain these positions would be beneficial to everyone in the county."

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