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Leaders sought in city, county

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- With five Nobles County Commission seats and three Worthington City Council seats slated to be on the 2012 ballot, residents have plenty of opportunity to step up and file for public office.

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While the Minnesota Secretary of State's office outlines the qualifications for public office, it says nothing about the time commitment or the compensation. Both vary based on the office and what the candidate is willing to put forth to best serve constituents.

At minimum, a person who files for a city or county office must be age 21 or older by the day the office is assumed; must be eligible to vote in Minnesota (voter registration is not required); must have maintained residence in the district for at least 30 days (by Oct.6) prior to the general election; has not filed for any other office in the upcoming primary or general election; and, if a major political party candidate, either participated in the party's most recent precinct caucuses or intends to vote for a majority of that party's candidates at the next general election.

Neither the city alderman nor the county commissioner posts campaign on party affiliations in Nobles County.

The Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) provides a bit more detail as to the type of person encouraged to apply for a county commissioner post.

"Useful experiences include having operated a business, service on a township, school board or city council, involvement in community activities and management experience," explains the "Duties of a County Commissioner" publication compiled by AMC.

Effective communication and negotiation skills are also a plus.

In addition to completing an affidavit of candidacy --basically providing a name, address and phone number -- those who file for public office must pay a filing fee. A city alderman candidate must pay $5 at the city clerk's office at Worthington City Hall, while a county commissioner candidate must pay $50 at the county auditor's office, located on the second floor of the Nobles County Government Center. Those locations are also where the affidavit of candidacy may be picked up and returned.

The filing period for a county commissioner candidate is from 8 a.m. May 22 through 5 p.m. June 5. If more than two candidates file for any one seat, a primary election must be conducted on Aug. 14 to narrow the field to two candidates. City aldermen do not participate in the primary election, and therefore don't have to file for a seat quite as early. This year, the filing period for a city council seat is from 8 a.m. July 31 through 5 p.m. Aug. 14.

Perhaps the greatest qualification for anyone interested in a city or county leadership role is the ability to attend regular and special meetings, as well as committee meetings.

"We meet the second and fourth Mondays of the month," said Worthington City Clerk Janice Oberloh. Those meetings have ranged anywhere from 11 minutes (during Mayor Robert J. Demuth's tenure) to more than three hours.

"There are special meetings that they can call," she added. Each alderman serves on a variety of committees, some of which meet once per month. "I think some of them are surprised by the amount of time that it takes."

Compensation for a city alderman is $6,000 per year, plus per diems for attending extra meetings. They also have the opportunity to participate city employee benefit plans for retirement, disability, sick leave, life insurance and any others.

County commissioners, on the other hand, receive a base salary of $17,510, plus per diems for any meetings and conferences they attend, according to Nobles County Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster. Commissioners are also reimbursed mileage and can be covered under the county's insurance plan.

City Council seats up for election this year include Alderman Lyle Ten Haken's post in Ward 1; Scott Nelson's post in Ward 2 and Mike Woll's post in the at-large seat. All of the seats are four-year terms. Both Ten Haken and Woll have announced they won't seek reelection.

At the county level, redistricting will force all five of the commissioner seats up for election this November. Commissioners will decide on the new districts at their April 17 meeting. At that time, they will also decide which seats will serve two-year terms and which seats will start with a four-year term.

Campaign signs may be erected as early as June 29 -- 46 days before the state primary, according to Worthington city code. Signs may not be posted on private lands without permission, or on rocks or natural features along highways. They are also not allowed on city boulevards or light poles.

The Minnesota Secretary of State website, www.sos.state.mn.us, offers an array of information for those interested in pursuing public office. In addition, both the Association of Minnesota Counties, www.mncounties.org, and the League of Minnesota Cities, www.lmc.org, provide information and training to new county and city leaders.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer can be reached at 376-7330

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