Missoula County commissioners this week sent matching letters to both the Democratic and Republican central committees, notifying them of their intent to review the way they select the county’s elections administrator.
The current Missoula County elections administrator, Rebecca Connors, has announced her intention to leave the post. And while the county extended Connors’ contract through December, it’s looking to name a new administrator to step in after this year’s General Election.
“We’re sending this letter out and have asked for recommendations from the Elections Advisory Committee on what they recommended doing,” said Commissioner Cola Rowley. “We’ve sent the letter out as well to the central committees to see if they have comment, and we’re reaching out to the general public.”
Connors was hired three years ago and was the first to be appointed by commissioners after a competitive hiring process. Before that, the position was filled by the county’s clerk and recorder.
The county will hold a public hearing next month “to determine whether or not to continue with the appointed elections administrator or to delegate the position to the clerk and recorder, or to another elected official,” the county’s letter states.
Rowley said the county is not permitted to name an independent elected official.
“It can’t be an independent elected official by statute,” said Rowley. “That’s what I hear people want it to be, and that’s simply not an option. We plan on making the decision on whether we’ll continue appointing the position or if it’s going to go back under an elected official.”
The county plans to hold a public hearing on Oct. 12 and take written comment through Oct. 20. It will make a final determination on Oct. 26.
“The urgency of not letting this drag out too long is that folks in January need to file for office,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “One of the options that’s on the table that could be realized is that the clerk and recorder could be the elections administrator, and whoever is filing for office is going to want to know that.”