The 2018 election may have been the last time voters elect the county auditor/treasurer who oversees elections and the county’s money and taxes.
The Waseca County Board is expected to vote next month to change the county auditor/treasurer from an elected official to a position appointed by the County Board.
The auditor/treasurer position wasn’t the only county leadership position on the Board’s agenda June 1. The County Board also watched Jim Kollar take the oath of office as the new Waseca County engineer.
A public hearing on the change to the county auditor/treasurer position is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 6 at the East Annex, 300 N. State St. in Waseca. Following the public hearing, the County Board will need a supermajority, or four of the five commissioners, voting in favor to make the change. If approved, the change won’t take effect for 30 days, during which residents can file a petition for a referendum on the matter.
A future County Board could also change it back to an elected position, although it needs to remain an appointed position for a minimum of three years before that could happen.
Tammy Spooner has held the county auditor/treasurer position since she was appointed in 2013 when the position became vacant due to a retirement. She was elected to her first four-year term in 2014 and ran unopposed in 2018.
About half of Minnesota counties have switched their auditor position to an appointed position in recent years, according to County Administrator Michael Johnson.
Johnson said the county auditor position requires a large amount of subject matter expertise and having it left up to the voters could lead to a concerning situation. Commissioner Blair Nelson said Waseca County hasn’t had problems with the auditor in the past.
Nelson said he was concerned that having an appointed auditor/treasurer would eliminate the requirement that the “watchdog” of the county live in Waseca County. Johnson responded that if the position was appointed, the County Board could set restrictions on the position.
Johnson told the Waseca County News that the decision to make the change comes after many conversations among county officials about it. He said residents won’t notice a change in the position if it’s switched. The position would be under the purview of the elected County Board so it would still have accountability to and oversight by elected officials, he said.
A county having an elected auditor/treasurer is an “outdated approach,” he said.
“We are far past the point in our history to where the recorder and/or the auditor/treasurer needs to be an elected position,” he said.
Having an appointed auditor/treasurer position will give the county flexibility and allow the county to restructure its organizational practices that it couldn’t otherwise do, he said. The county would also be able to add “other duties as assigned” to the position if it’s appointed, he said.
New county engineer
Jim Kollar of Owatonna began as the new Waseca County public works director and engineer June 1.
Kollar worked for Rice County for 14 years, first as a design/construction engineer and then as an assistant county engineer beginning in 2013. Prior to his work in Rice County, he worked as a project engineer for McGhie and Betts in Rochester. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from South Dakota State University.
The county has been searching since January to fill the county engineer position after Nathan Richman, whose contract ran through May 30. Three candidates were interviewed for the position.
Johnson said he’s excited about Kollar’s hiring.
“He’s been in the area, the region for many, many years,” Johnson said.
He will bring youth and innovation to the position, as well as a different perspective as a new leader in the county, Johnson said.
Waseca County has consolidated its solid waste and highway employees under the Public Works Department and the county needs a person with a strong foundation in civil engineering who can bring the two groups together. Kollar has the needed subject matter expertise to lead the department, Johnson said. He’s familiar with highway design, funding and budgets. He also showed throughout the candidate process that he was innovative, and creating a 10-year plan for the county is a top priority for Kollar, Johnson said.