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County commissioners approve job offer to assistant county attorney candidate

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners authorized County Attorney Aaron Jordan to offer the job of assistant county attorney to Carl Thunem, one of five candidates interviewed for the position, at their meeting on Wednesday.

Thunem has accepted the position and is expected to start work in May, after he returns from a deployment with the Army National Guard in Kuwait.

Jordan told the board that he and the hiring committee - Human Services Supervisor Gary Knockenmus, Commissioner Phil Gausman and Human Resources Manager Sue Schultz - unanimously chose Thunem as their top choice for the position.

Thunem, a 2007 graduate of the University of Minnesota law school, is a captain in the Army National Guard. Thunem was working as a judicial clerk in rural Jackson County before his deployment.

"The military experience that he's got is going to add tremendously to this position," said Jordan. "Even at his relatively young age, he's been given some pretty serious duties."

Because of his deployment, Thunem would not be able to begin work until May, but Jordan said he was comfortable continuing to work with Deb Economou as a part-time assistant until Thunem could begin work.

Although all of the candidates had roughly the same level of experience, Gausman said Thunem "stood head and shoulders above the rest."

Jordan said that Thunem seemed excited about the position and wanted to have an outside private practice and was "excited about doing that."

Board offers public comment period, plans to broadcast meetings

The board held their first scheduled public comment period at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting.

Although no citizens were in attendance to speak, Board Chairman Larry Sayre he would be working with County Coordinator Brian Giese to develop a protocol and rules for the public and the chair to use during the comment period.

Sayre said Giese had collected some examples of policies from other counties, and that he would like to bring a policy to the board at an upcoming meeting to approve.

"It gives those who are here from the public some guidance as to the direction they should be going, and so forth, and gives the chair himself some leeway as well as to how the meetings should proceed," said Sayre.

The board also took a first step towards filming meetings and making them available to the public by authorizing IT Director Scott Busche to purchase a digital video camera and memory cards.

Bushe told the board he has also started a YouTube account for Stevens County ( where he could upload recordings of the meetings and make them available to the public and to local public access channels.

"This is a starting point," said Busche. "Probably not as fancy as some other ones you've seen, but I don't know how fancy you want to go on this."

In general, the board expressed support for the idea of recording their meetings and making the video available to the public, although there were some questions about what meetings to record and if there were any liability issues.

"I think it's a good idea," said Sayre. "I think, initially, when we were looking at construction, particularly of the board room, this was one of the areas that we wanted to address. Most counties and cities are doing the same thing."

Jordan said he thought recording was always a good idea.

"I think it's akin to having squad videos in every cop car," explained Jordan. "There's going to be good and bad with it, obviously. There are going to be times when there are things you'd rather have on there, but there will be a lot more times when you capture things [you want]."

Other business

• The board approved Human Services claims and warrants of $190,653. The amount was higher than in previous months because the entire contract with the Life Care Center, $121,600, is paid at the beginning of the year.

• Veterans' Service Officer Hugh Reimers gave the board an annual update from his office. In 2011, Reimers opened 39 new files, filed 17 new claims, processed 269 other benefits applications and made 716 total contacts with veterans in Stevens County.

Although the number of veterans in the area has been slowly declining, the total expenditures on local veterans has been increasing. Reimers said this is because a higher percentage of veterans are seeking services, and medical advances mean that more conditions qualify for reimbursement.