As we were saying…
Wednesday in this space we again recommended that the Riley County government hire a professional manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Those recommendations have fallen on deaf ears for many years, so we might as well flog another dead horse as long as we’re at it.
To put it simply: There’s no reason to have elections to pick the county Register of Deeds or the County Treasurer. There’s a reasonable case to make to continue to elect the County Clerk, mostly because he’s the person in charge of elections, and it’s best to have that person not answer to other elected officials. It also makes sense to elect the County Attorney, since the county’s top law enforcement official ought to be accountable to the public.
If there’s another position that it might make sense to elect, it’s actually the county appraiser. He’s the person who determines the value of your home, which determines part of your tax bill, and it would be cleanest to separate that person from the chain of command underneath county commissioners, who set tax rates. That’s the way it’s set up right now. Not ideal.
But, to make the general point, all of those jobs are 99 percent managerial positions that have nothing to do with the ability to get elected. Fortunately, voters over the years have done a good job of picking people who know what they’re doing, and our community has been blessed with elected officials in those positions who did good work and were willing to continue to serve.
There’s no reason to think there’s an immediate crisis, either, since the candidates running for those offices are also qualified.
At some point, though, the silliness of electing the Register of Deeds, for instance, is going to actually make a difference. Somebody could win an election in some sort of political deal, even though he or she has no idea what to do in the job. Same with the Treasurer.
Just so you think about the silliness of it, these positions are actually elected in partisan elections. As if there’s a Republican way to register deeds, and a Democratic way. Should the Treasurer candidates say they want to deposit money conservatively or liberally?
As with the whole setup with county commissioners acting as if they are full-time employees managing day-to-day general county affairs, all of this is a remnant of the 19th Century.
Sooner or later, we need to get around to making it make sense for the 21st.