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Schulze named administrator overseeing four district courts

PIPESTONE -- An order filed in the Fifth Judicial District Monday states Steven Schulze, Pipestone and Murray counties' court administrator, has been appointed as administrator of both Rock and Nobles counties as well.

Sandi Hensley will retire from the role of administrator in Rock and Nobles counties March 22.

"I'm very happy for Sandi," Schulze joked. "I'm trying not to be jealous."

Each courthouse will still have a court administration office, with court management teams in place, and Schulze will have his base office in Pipestone, where he lives.

He will travel between the various offices as circumstances require.

"There will be times I spend multiple days of the week in Nobles or Rock or wherever, depending on what's going on at the time," he explained. "This thing will work because the staff in each county is very good at what they do."

Schulze admitted he won't be able to do all of the tasks he was doing in the past -- some of those things will be absorbed by the staff at each office or just not available at some of the smaller courthouses.

"We may have to hang signs on the doors at times," he said. "We may be down to one staff person in some of the offices, and we're already down to two in some."

With the changes in technology, Schulze believes the transition will go smoothly, and the offices will be run effectively and efficiently. And he does have some experience with this -- he was the first administrator in Minnesota to cover two courts. In 1991, Murray and Pipestone counties, after discussion, opted to have him administrate both courts.

"It was very different then," Schulze admitted. "At that point in time, they were county courts, funded by the counties. It had never been done before, and we were in new territory."

Combining the two jobs into one was initially done to improve services and save money, which it did. Judge David Christensen was covering both county courts, and he thought working with the same court administrator would be efficient. It took some agreements, meetings and resolutions, along with getting through the legal loops in the legislature, but the bottom line, Schulze said, was that if either county or he decided things weren't working, the joint administration job could be dissolved.

Not so the new appointment.

"Now its District Court, and the order comes down from the state level, from the chief justice and judicial council," Schulze said. "This is to save money and to take advantage of the changes the courts have committed to in terms of technology changes and the goal of having Ecourt in place."

The recent changes in judgeships in the Fifth Judicial District is an advantage, Schulze said.

"It's a little unsettling when you look at all of the changes at the same time, but it provides the perfect opportunity for everyone to climb on the same ship and work together," he added.

New judges Gordon Moore and Terry Vajgrt have two important qualities -- open minds and patience -- that will help this work, Schulze said. The timing of a venture of this kind is important, he added, and the judicial council was wise to choose this time, when things fit, instead of forcing the issue.

That doesn't mean the change won't be a little crazy for Schulze. As the administrator, his job includes gathering the people, keeping them effective, handling the budget and bills, making sure the equipment is working, addressing whatever needs attention and finding solutions to whatever problems pop up.

"You don't know what is going to have your attention that day, which I personally find satisfying," Schulze admitted. "This is going to be one of those things where you just keep on moving, keep on trucking along. Things will come up, and we'll deal with it."

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at