County recorder candidates discuss e-recording at forum
E-recording and digitization of county records were the hot topics of the evening when the four registered candidates for Becker County Recorder faced off in a primary election candidate forum Tuesday night at the Detroit Lakes Library.
Hosted by the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters and the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday’s forum featured all four county recorder candidates as well as the three candidates for Becker County Auditor/Treasurer — all of whom will be facing off in an Aug. 12 primary to earn a spot on the November general election ballot.
Recorder candidates Darryl Hensel, Sandee Listul, Patty Swenson and Karen Wenner each took turns answering questions from moderator Sharon Sinclair during the one-hour forum.
One of the key questions was asked early on: “If elected, you will be able to shape the future of your department. In your opinion, what do you see as the major challenges for your department, and where do you see opportunities for change?”
Hensel said one of his priorities if elected would be to look into expanding the usage of e-recording — electronically recording and submitting county deed transactions, birth and death certificates and records of other vital statistics that are maintained by the recorder’s office.
“There are currently 66 counties doing e-recording,” Hensel said. “It’s a major thing we have to push for.”
He also pointed to “better communication between departments” as another key change that he would like to see implemented.
Wenner said that she would also be an advocate for the continued digitization of the county’s existing records, as well as looking into expanding its e-recording in the future.
“It makes it much easier (for the public) to access our records,” she said.
However, she added, “The most important thing is to continue providing the service that the citizens of Becker County have come to expect.”
“Our recorder’s office is being left in a very good position (with Darlene Maneval’s retirement),” Listul said. “We are a very efficient office.
“…We need to streamline our services, and we are working diligently on that all of the time,” she added.
With the increasing technology available, “there is so much research the public can do on their own,” Listul continued, but at the same time, “We have a good staff and they do tremendous work for customer service.”
While Swenson said that she would need “to take the time to know the exact operations in the recorder’s office” before she could make recommendations for change, she feels her 12 years of experience as head of the planning and zoning department have given her the skills to do so.
When asked to describe their management style, the four candidates were quite varied in their comments.
“I’m very employee oriented,” Hensel said. “I don’t believe in standing at the door with my wrist watch out… I trust the people that work for me, and they can trust me to keep them informed about what’s going on.”
“We have a mission to provide services to the taxpayers,” Swenson said, noting that her management style is to make sure those services are provided as accurately and efficiently as possible.
“That’s important to me… and to be friendly,” she added.
Wenner said her management style is “to lead by example.”
“I’m a hard worker,” she said, adding that she has taken the time over the years to “learn every aspect” of the recorder’s office.
“I’m a very detail-oriented person,” Wenner added. “I think that’s a very important asset in the recorder’s office… I want to be sure all these documents are available and preserved for the future citizens of Becker County.”
Listul said that her management style would be to have an “open door policy” for her employees, and encourage all of them to help each other out whenever possible, such as cross-training on each other’s duties so they can fill in when someone is on vacation.
She used the specific example of torrens titles, saying that in the past, the recorder’s office has had just one or two people capable of handling such transactions. (Torrens Title is a land title system where the ownership is transferred through registering the title, rather than the deeds.)
“I would like to expand that so everyone is taught (how to register torrens titles),” Listul said.
As was pointed out during both the opening and closing remarks during Tuesday’s forum, all four of the recorder candidates are current county government employees, though Hensel works just across the border in Hubbard County, where he has served as the deputy recorder for the past 12 years.
Both Listul and Wenner are currently employed by the County Recorder’s office, where Listul has 24 years of experience, and Wenner, 27 years. Wenner is currently serving as the deputy recorder, while Listul is the administrator of vital statistics and marriage certifications.
Though Swenson is the lone candidate without recorder’s office experience, she pointed out that her 24 years of working in Becker County’s planning and zoning department — including the last 12 years as its administrator — has given her extensive experience working with land records and documentation, as well as state statutes and county ordinances.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.