Crow Wing County Administrator Tim Houle should be commended for his efforts to look at ways to reorganize and streamline county government. The latest proposed restructuring, which is just in discussion stages at this point, would replace two currently elective posts with an appointed administrative services director. The positions in question are the county recorder and the county auditor-treasurer.
By all means “outside of the box” thinking is called for, particularly in our governmental agencies. The fact that “we’ve always done it that way” shouldn’t justify a practice that is no longer efficient.
Where many of us would part company with Houle is when he dismisses the concerns about whether the offices should be elected or not. We disagree with Houle’s contention that the debate over whether a post should be elected or not is a “silly little argument.” Citizens can hold elected officials accountable in a way that they can’t hold appointed officials accountable. Just ask the politicians who received their walking papers Nov. 6.
Perhaps a good case could be made that the county recorder post is rightfully an appointed post. The county recorder maintains property records and probate documents and rarely ventures into areas that most citizens would deem to be controversial.
The auditor-treasurer post is a different type of position. In addition to its duties with finances and accounting, this manager is in charge of our elections. If there ever were a case when an auditor-treasurer was not acting as an impartial election official, that person could be challenged in an election and there’s something reassuring about that.
Houle, in his proposal, emphasized customer service, efficiency and cost savings. We look forward to the county commissioners’ discussions on these issues, but won’t be at all offended if they weigh the merits of which officials should best be appointed and which should best be elected.