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Erik Burgess, Published March 12 2014

Dayton signs law allowing Clay auditor-treasurer, recorder positions to be appointed

MOORHEAD – Starting next year, the county auditor-treasurer and recorder will no longer be elected to office in Clay County.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law Wednesday that allows those two positions to be appointed by county commissioners, like most other department heads, rather than elected by a public vote in Clay and four other Minnesota counties.

Clay County pushed for this change for about the past three years, said County Administrator Brian Berg.

Berg said it will allow the county to look at ways to combine some parts of the offices of the assessor, auditor and recorder.

“It just opens up opportunity for efficiencies and we think better government,” he said.

Current elected officials will finish their terms at the end of this year.

Lori Johnson is auditor-treasurer and DiAnn Streifel is recorder. Streifel took over as recorder after longtime recorder Bonnie Rehder retired last week. Rehder had worked for 36 years with the county, more than 20 as the recorder, Berg said.

He said Johnson and Streifel support changing their positions to being appointed instead of elected.

“I mean, when you have the auditor-treasurer who’s trying to conduct an election and then has to be out there running for that position at the same time, that doesn’t make sense,” Berg said.

The Clay County Board of Commissioners will look to adopt a resolution Tuesday officially enacting the change in Clay County. Berg expects the commission to pass the resolution.

The public could undo the action within 60 days through a reverse referendum, he said. A petition must be signed by at least 10 percent of registered voters in the county, and the issue would then be placed on the ballot for voter approval at the next regular or special election.

The positions of county attorney and sheriff will remain elected in Clay County, Berg said.

The law signed by Dayton also allows the change for Jackson, Lake, Kandiyohi and Lyon counties. The bill passed the House 85-42 and the Senate 42-21, according to a release from the governor’s office.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518