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Appointed county positions opinion: County board's position

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Lake County News Chronicle
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Appointed county positions opinion: County board's position
Two Harbors Minnesota 109 Waterfront Dr. 55616

From the Lake County Board of Commissioners

A recent vote by the Lake County Board of Commissioners has caused some to question the motivation.

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The state legislature and governor have given Lake County the authority to change the positions of County Auditor/Treasurer and County Recorder from elected to appointed. Additional counties were included in this bill and a statewide bill is being proposed.

The board of commissioners passed a resolution to appoint these positions after a public hearing on March 18, 2014. We are now in the petition phase of this process, which will determine if a referendum will be on the November ballot.

Lake County has been fortunate to have had these offices filled by long-term and dedicated people. They have mentored good staff and have adjusted to increasing changes and mandates from state and federal government. They have seen their offices become more technical and complex. Times have changed. Chances of 30+ year employee / employer relationships or 30+ years of having the same elected official in office are slim. This is not unique to Lake County.

If or when these positions become vacant, the county board feels it is in the best interest of the county for these positions to be appointed. Every one of the commissioners has struggled with the decision. Should these positions remain elected? Or should those persons seeking these offices be required to meet minimum requirements and qualifications? The possibility that the residents will no longer vote for these two offices weighs heavily on us as we are sure it did for those in St. Paul.

The philosophical difference in our minds is this; is the constituency of Lake County better served by a person elected whose only qualification requirement is to be a resident of Lake County? Or is the county better served by someone who demonstrates the expertise for the job, applies, and is interviewed and hired based on standard criteria and best practices that the county uses for all positions?

Our concern is not that the residents won’t elect the best candidate. Our concern is that qualified candidates may not run for office. The process of hiring will ensure qualifications and selection of an employee that will be suited to handle these positions that have grown more specialized and intricate. The majority of the state population operates in the manner the board is proposing.

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