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Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Orderly transition

There’s no reason to believe that Tuesday’s election results are a recipe for disaster in Douglas County.

November 7, 2004

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Even on the day after his party lost a number of local election races, comments made by Douglas County Republican Chairman Chris Miller seemed careless and insensitive.

Looking at the sweep by Democrats of races for the Douglas County district attorney, treasurer and clerk, Miller seemed to be trying to, at best, stir up fear among county residents or, at worst, discredit the newly elected officials.

"You've got inexperienced, unknown people taking over positions about which they know little or nothing," he said. "They will typically bring in a whole legion of political hacks to replace experienced, knowledgeable people. Now, maybe that won't happen, but if it does, that leads to absolute disaster."

Since when is the orderly transition of an office from one elected official to another assumed to be a prelude to "disaster"? The county had an unusual number of retirements this year -- treasurer, clerk and sheriff -- which ensured some turnover, but our form of government is designed to accommodate such changes without mass upheaval.

In the first place all of the employees in the county treasurer's office and all but two deputies in the county clerk's office are protected by county personnel policies and can't be fired at the will of their new bosses. The new district attorney has the option of keeping or replacing all of his office staff, but he has said he will consider keeping employees who share his philosophies.

In all cases, the new officials and those they will replace should work together to make the transition as smooth as possible. It would seem to behoove the newcomers to retain some key staff members to make sure their offices run smoothly during the transition. And there's no reason to assume that anyone hired by the newly elected officials will be inexperienced "political hacks."

By the same token, county residents shouldn't assume that doing things "the way they've always been done" necessarily is the best option. The influx of new officials with new ideas might actually improve services in some areas.

Tuesday's election results may have surprised some observers, but the totals are in and the voters have spoken. Our democratic form of government embraces not only the election process but also the orderly transfer of authority from one set of officials to another. Under the guidance of the Douglas County Commission and the county administrator, there is no reason to believe the transition can't be accomplished this year without dire results.

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