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Four vie for county recorder position

With Becker County Recorder Darlene Maneval retiring after a dozen years in office, Jan. 1 will see a new leader in the recorder’s office.

Before that date though, the Aug. 12 primaries will whittle the list of four candidates down to two, who will move on to the November general election.

Up for the spot are, in alphabetical order, Darryl Hensel, Sandee Listul, Patricia Swenson and Karen Wenner.

The four candidates were asked the same questions, and their responses are as follows.

Darryl Hensel

Darryl Hensel, 54, has spent his entire life in Becker County, except for attending college and serving in the U.S. Air Force.  He is single but comes from a large family with five brothers and two sisters.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from St. John’s University and a Master of Science degree in management from Troy State University. He serves as the chief deputy recorder for Hubbard County, a position he’s held for 12 years.

Please provide any other information you would like voters to know about your background, such as hobbies or membership in professional or volunteer organizations.

Some of my hobbies include golfing, collecting historical post cards and researching genealogy.  I have traced most of my roots back to the 1700s and a few back into the 1600s. I love walking cemeteries and doing historical research.

Community involvement is important to me as well and I have served past and present as a member, chairman or treasurer on many local boards including:  Greenwood Cemetery Association, Knights of Columbus, Hubbard County Genealogical Society, Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), Park Rapids Pregnancy Resource Center, North Country Museum of Arts and the Hubbard County Historical Society.

The County Recorder is the custodian of the land records and vital statistic records for Becker County. It is the county recorder’s responsibility to archive these records and assure easy and accurate access to the public. Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I am the best candidate for the Recorder position as I respect the documents, know the importance of protecting them, and have ample experience in this field.  In my genealogical and real property research I have searched for records on more than one occasion only to learn that they had been lost or neglected. 

I am driven to prevent the loss of any record, as each record affects someone’s personal situation.  Our land records are the backbone to all that we do at the county.  Our ability to collect property taxes is driven by legal descriptions derived from the recorded documents. 

These tax dollars allow us to maintain our roads and public safety. Vital records are just as critical.  If one loses his birth certificate in this day and age it is like he never existed. I do not want to see people hurt because no one cared to take the time to archive the records in a safe and searchable manner. 

The job of the County Recorder no longer involves just filing copies of paper documents.  Today’s land records management systems are complex legacy software products that digitize the document images, integrate national document indexing standards to allow users to retrieve needed records, verify accuracy via optical character recognition components, and track receivables, document processing statistics, as well as keeping the abstract and Torrens real property records separate and distinct. 

County Recorders need an ever increasing knowledge of technology to manage these systems, keep them secure from outside threats, and be willing and able to determine how to integrate them with other county software systems.  In my tenure in county government, I have worked in tandem with the Recorder to solve these issues and position us for the future.  I am passionate, knowledgeable, and up to date on these and other challenges that affect this office.  

I was present in county government when we hand-wrote all documents in the tract indices and when we moved from photo copying to microfilming and then to digitizing the images.  I have worked with three land records management software packages and worked through multiple software conversions as we continued to make our systems more robust. I have the practical day-to-day knowledge to run this office.

I have also had the opportunity to work in several other county offices over my career which has allowed me to see the bigger picture of how critical the land records are in other county offices and how important it is to effectively communicate with my peers. 

My current position is a member of a land records team including the Recorder, Assessor, GIS, Environmental Services, and the land related processes of the Auditor/Treasurer.  I work closely with all of these disciplines on a daily basis and understand their interconnectivity and varying public service roles.

What is working well in the Recorder’s Office now, and what changes do you think are needed?

Darlene Maneval is leaving the Becker County Recorder’s Office in great shape. We have a strong vital records base and have been able to retain the service of offering passports.  I have always received great service when coming into the office. 

For the future, my goals would be to back index more of the real estate records in the computer system so that they are easier to find and could be retrieved online by the public.

I would also like to see Becker County join the e-recording movement.  E-recorded documents arrive at the county via the internet instead of by mail and they save taxpayer dollars in the form of reduced staff processing time and postage.  They are more secure than paper documents and save time for both document submitters and the county. They also increase efficiencies for title companies by reducing their costs and risks which results in a faster closing for the buying and selling public. 

Becker County already has the software necessary to offer this important service and it could be implemented immediately with little cost.

County government is changing as we move from a 19th century to a 21st century model of operation. Many offices do not express their needs amongst themselves and still focus only on their immediate operations.  We need to change the way we approach our service to the public by sharing expertise and resources to implement shared software that allows us to work together and anticipate taxpayer needs.

Sandee Listul

Sandee Listul has been married to her husband, Larry, for 31 years. They have two adult children and seven grandchildren.  They are all lifetime residents of  Becker  County.

Listul attended Holy Rosary school for eight years before graduating from Detroit Lakes High School. She has worked as a Deputy Recorder for the past 24 years, working 12 years for the previous recorder Marlene Martinson and 12 years for present recorder Darlene Maneval.

Please provide any other information you would like voters to know about your background, such as hobbies or membership in professional or volunteer organizations.

My most enjoyable times are those attending my grandchildren’s functions such as football, soccer, dance, gymnastics and all other school activities they are in.

Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I have all the certifications, training and experience for all aspects of the recorder’s office already. Some of them being Minnesota County Recorder’s Association & Minnesota Associations of County Surveyors, US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Seattle Passport Agency, Minnesota Department of Health Office of State Registrar & Vital Records.

I am currently the Administrator of Vital Records and Minnesota Official Marriage Systems. I am not only accountable to Becker County but also the State of Minnesota. The staff in the recorder’s office has worked very well together for many years so the transition would be effortless. I will strive to keep the integrity and professionalism that our customers are accustomed to.

What is working well in the Recorder’s Office now, and what changes do you think are needed?

We are a very complex office. With all the different kind of duties in our office, it works well to have a lot of cross training. Each employee has special duties that they know. We also train to help in areas they do not do on a daily basis. The office is streamlined to be the most effective as possible. We are updating and streamlining programs as necessary so the public can do a lot of their own research.

Patricia Swenson

Patricia Swenson, 44, was born and raised in Park Rapids, where she graduated. She attended Moorhead State University and has lived in Becker County for the past 25 years, the last five years on Big Toad Lake. She has one son, Tyler, 25, Fargo.  

Please provide any other information you would like voters to know about your background, such as hobbies or membership in professional or volunteer organizations.

I am an avid supporter of the Humane Society of the Lakes. I am also a member of Ducks Unlimited and our Lake Association.

Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I have worked for the citizens of Becker County for the last 24 years in Planning and Zoning. I have been the Planning & Zoning administrator for the past 12 years.  As P&Z administrator, I am responsible to meet all mandatory state statutes, both zoning and recording, in relation to land subdivisions. Most land subdivisions begin in the P&Z office, once certified by the Department the subdivisions are transferred to the Recorder’s Office for recording.

 It is the responsibility of the Recorder to archive these important documents and assure easy and accurate access to the public. If elected, I will assure all documents recorded continue to meet these MN Statutory requirements. 

As a department head, I have extensive experience in a leadership role working closely with the county commissioners and other department heads. I believe I am the best candidate because I have complete knowledge of land transfers and subdivision requirements. 

I understand the entire process of land acquisitions and transfers from beginning to final recording. I have strong leadership abilities. I have been a leader in Planning and Zoning over the past 12 years, leading our Planning Commission, Board of Adjustment and Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee.   

What is working well in the Recorder’s Office now, and what changes do you think are needed?

I am confident that the current recorder has met all Minnesota statutory requirements. If elected, my first priority would be to initiate and expedite the recording of all Official Military Discharge Documents. I feel my professional background and leadership experience is the right choice for the Becker County Recorder Position.  

Karen Wenner

Karen Wenner, 54, has been married to her husband, Dan, for almost 30 years. They have two daughters, Jennifer, 25, and Kelsey, 23. They have lived in Detroit Lakes since 1987.

Wenner has a legal secretarial degree from North Dakota State School of Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in Administration and General Business from Moorhead State University.

Previously in the Recorder’s office, she held the positions of UCC Manager and Deputy Recorder/Property Title Specialist. Currently, she is the chief deputy recorder and passport manager.

Please provide any other information you would like voters to know about your background, such as hobbies or membership in professional or volunteer organizations.

I have been involved in the community in various organizations, including Jaycees, and currently am active in the church choir and the Marriage Preparation Team. I have experience in organizing events, and leading and completing projects. I would do well in representing the Recorder’s Office and Becker County. I also enjoy music, reading and especially spending time with family.

Why are you the best candidate for the position?

I am the best candidate for the position of Recorder because I have worked in virtually every area of the office.  I have managed the Uniform Commercial Code department and passports, worked with vital statistics, understand statutes and various recording requirements for real estate documents (both abstract and torrens), and have extensive experience in interpreting legal descriptions and surveys.  

What is working well in the Recorder’s Office now, and what changes do you think are needed?

The Recorder’s Office and its staff are known for their excellent service to the citizens of Becker County. We have heard many times that we are much more pleasant and helpful than other offices in counties around us.  I am committed to ensuring that documents are recorded accurately and are readily available for review.

Technology is constantly changing, and record-keeping techniques will also continue to change. It will be imperative to keep the office current with improved technological advances. E-recording is becoming more and more widespread and I hope to begin that process in Becker County if elected.