Nath to serve as county board chair for 2022

Pipestone County Commissioner Les Nath was elected board chair for 2022 during the commissioners’ first meeting of the year on Jan. 4. Nath was first elected a commissioner in 2014 and previously served as board chair in 2017. K. Kuphal

Pipestone County Commissioners during their first meeting of the year on Jan. 4 elected Commissioner Les Nath to serve as county board chair with a 4-1 vote. Former Board Chair Luke Johnson cast the lone vote of opposition.

County Administrator Steve Ewing opened the meeting, as is customary for the annual organizational meeting, and accepted nominations for board chair. Commissioner Dan Wildermuth nominated Nath, in keeping with the board’s tradition of rotating the positions of chair and vice chair. Nath then nominated Johnson.

Wildermuth asked why the board wouldn’t stick with its regular rotation. Johnson said he thought there might be some “ongoing issues” that could make some commissioners feel like continuity might be in order.

“I’m confused because the chair person has no more power than any of the other members of this board,” Wildermuth said. “So I don’t understand the reason for the continuity.”

After he was elected chair, Nath took over the meeting and the board moved on to select a vice chair. Commissioner Dallas Roskamp nominated Wildermuth, who was next up in the rotation, and Johnson nominated Commissioner Chris Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth said he understood that there were concerns about continuity, but that he thought it was best to stick with the regular rotation.

“I just believe that’s how we’ve done it, I believe that’s how we should keep doing it,” he said.

The board elected Wildermuth by another 4-1 vote with Johnson again casting the lone vote of opposition.

Nath said after the meeting that he believes the county began 2022 in a “really solid position.” Financially, Nath said the county is in good shape due to conservative management over the years. He thanked prior board members for what they did to achieve that.

“We try to do the best we can for the taxpayers with the money we have available,” Nath said.

Nath said the county has a number of items of interest coming up in the year ahead. That includes the sale of the former Central School property and the possible acquisition of the former Hill Elementary property by Pipestone County Medical Center, which is owned by the county and for which the commissioners serve as the governing board members.

Nath said there might also be opportunities coming up to expand the tax base within the county with the potential development of some properties. He didn’t see any specific challenges on the horizon for the county, but said that could change if there’s flooding or something else unexpected.

“I guess we’ll deal with them as they come,” Nath said.

He said his goal as board chair for 2022 is to keep unity on the board.

Nath was first elected to the county board in 2014 and previously served as the board chair in 2017.

In addition to electing a chair and vice chair, the commissioners also dealt with the regular new year business during the annual organizational meeting. That included adopting rules of procedure, keeping the commissioners’ per diem pay at $100 a day, establishing expenses that could be paid by auditor warrant, recognizing the commissioners as county employees for the purpose of coverage under the county’s workers compensation insurance, designating public depositories as recommended by Auditor-Treasurer Amanda Baarson Sandy, and setting minimum salaries for elected officials at the same amounts they’d been in the past.

The minimum salaries are $24,000 for sheriff, $24,000 for recorder and $16,000 for attorney. Wildermuth asked why those amounts were so low. Ewing said it could be changed, but that setting them low could deter unqualified candidates from running for office.

“In talking to other counties there was some feeling that if the initial salaries were low enough and possibly someone was elected who had no capability, or just wanted to get elected and didn’t want to do the job, that having a low minimum salary may not make that appealing,” Ewing said.

The commissioners set the actual salaries for elected officials at their previous meeting and must do so annually.

The commissioners also designated the Edgerton Enterprise as the official newspaper and the Pipestone County Star as the second newspaper in accordance with a tradition of rotation, left their meeting dates and times unchanged, scheduled the annual board of adjustment and equalization meeting for June 13 at 7 p.m. in the commissioners room at the courthouse, set the mileage reimbursement rate at $.585 per mile in keeping with the Internal Revenue Service rate, set the meal reimbursement allowance at $50 a day, and made committee appointments.

The primary changes to the committee appointments were replacing Johnson with Nath on committees the board chair serves on, replacing Nath with Wildermuth on committees on which the vice chair serves, and replacing Tyler Reisch with Sandy on committees the auditor-treasurer serves on.