County hopes for talk on appointing recorder
During the past decade, Mower County leaders have made a few attempts to change some positions from elected to appointed roles but with little success.
Now — with County Recorder Sue Davis planning to retire rather than seek re-election in November — the Mower County Board is looking for legislative approval to start a process to formally get public input on making the recorder an appointed or hired job.
The county's elected department heads — auditor-treasurer, recorder, attorney, sheriff — are up for election in November to fill four-year terms. Davis was not available this week for comment.
Changing the process
County board members unanimously approved on Tuesday a resolution asking local legislators to introduce a bill with their request.
If lawmakers and the governor approve it, the board would have to host a public hearing on the idea and then vote on whether to approve a resolution authorizing the change, said Craig Oscarson, the county's coordinator.
Members of the public could be involved throughout the process, he said.
"It's just an opportunity bill, so to speak," Oscarson said.
Board members plan to have a preliminary public-input session at 11 a.m. March 23 to gauge public support. If there's too much opposition to the change they could ask legislators to withdraw the bill.
History of appointed attempts
In 2001, the board started discussions about changing the auditor, treasurer and recorder positions from elected to appointed posts.
Board members said they were concerned that the lack of requirements for officials holding the offices could leave the county with inexperienced people getting elected. Candidates who run for offices such as sheriff and county attorney, for example, have to be certified.
At that time, local legislators declined to carry a bill that year to make the positions appointive, and nothing further happened.
Three years later, county officials unsuccessfully tried to get voter approval on making the auditor, treasurer and recorder positions appointed. The ballot question failed by nearly 3,000 votes.
After the vote, Davis said she was happy with the outcome because it showed people still wanted to have a say in their government.
In 2005, the board unanimously voted to merge the auditor and treasurer positions starting in 2007 to make operations more efficient and save money. The board made the move after Woody Vereide, the long-time county auditor, announced he would not seek re-election.
On Tuesday, Oscarson said Davis and current auditor-treasurer Doug Groh have agreed not to object to the board looking into the recorder change.