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Castle Rock Township asks again: Elect or appoint a clerk?

When they go to the polls on March 12, Castle Rock voters will be asked to vote on whether the township's clerk position should be elected or appointed. Again.

The township has asked residents for their opinion on the position several times since 2009. Township chair Drea Doffing hopes this year will be the last.

As it is now, township clerk is an elected position in Castle Rock. It has been since 2009. But that can limit the township board when the clerk resigns and the board needs to find a replacement.

In July, 2008, township clerk Maralee Rother retired after 27 years with the township, leaving Castle Rock in need of a new clerk. Deputy clerk Jane Bistodeau was appointed on a temporary basis. In March, 2009, Castle Rock voters were asked to determine whether the township clerk should be elected or appointed.

Township residents voted to make the position an elected one. In March, 2010, Bistodeau was elected to her first two-year term as township clerk.

The same question about the clerk's position came up on the March, 2012 ballot. Once again, township voters chose to make it an elected position and Bistodeau was elected to a second term.

But life brings change, and such was the case for Bistodeau. She stepped down from the clerk's position, which left the township in need of a clerk.

But, Doffing said, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people in Castle Rock who are knowledgeable about township government and are willing to run for office.

Because there is still well over a year left in what would have been Bistodeau's term in office, the township board is able to appoint someone to fill that seat right now. And they have, with Barbara Lang, who has stepped in for the length of Bistodeau's term. Bistodeau is still helping out at the township office as deputy clerk.

Lang is only holding the clerk's position until the end of 2013, when Bistodeau's term would technically come to an end. At that point, Castle Rock would be looking for another candidate to fill the clerk's post under the current structure.

With that in mind, the Castle Rock Township Board of Supervisors chose to put the clerk question on the ballot again this year.

"The difference is, if they're elected, that would have to be somebody who lives in the township, and that's our concern," Doffing said. "We're running out of options when it comes to those types of people who can fill that position.

"In our township, we're getting more computerized and using digital records more and more. We can't just throw anybody in there anymore. It's been a job that anybody could have filled in the past, but not the way the world is going now."

When Bistodeau initially stepped down, Doffing said, the township put out the call for applications to fill the position. They got quite a few, but most of the applicants who had education in government affairs or who had the computer skills they were looking for did not live in the township. While it would have been fine to appoint one of those applicants from outside the township boundaries now, under the current structure, that person would have to step down within the year.

In theory, that could mean Castle Rock has three clerks in less than two years. If the clerk's position remains on the ballot, it could also mean a new person in that position every two years. The lack of consistency worries Doffing.

"You should have consistency in something like that, instead of having people come in and other people being abruptly taken out. (The clerk) goes through special training do to that job, and election training. It usually takes two or three months just to get caught up on what's going on," Doffing said.

Doffing does not want to endorse either method of filling the clerk's position, but she does have concerns with keeping it an elected position.

"I'm just voicing my concerns. We had to spend extra taxpayer dollars for advertising the position, but we couldn't consider candidates that live in Farmington or in the northern part of Northfield, and that cost us both time and money," she said.

The question

The question of the clerk's position will appear on the township board's ballot on March 12. It will read: "Shall Option B, providing for the appointment of the Clerk by the Town Board, be adopted for the government of the town?"

A "yes" vote will indicate voters think the position should be an appointed one; a "no" vote will indicate a voter thinks the position should continue to be an elected position.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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