At Tuesday’s meeting, the Hall County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution to keep the office of the Hall County Surveyor as an elected position.
In April of 2014 LB946 was approved by the Nebraska Legislature and State Statutes 32-525 was revised to allow counties with populations less than 150,000 residents to place before voters the ballot question as to whether the office of county surveyor should remain an elected position or switch to an appointed position.
In counties with an elected county surveyor in office as of Jan. 1, 2020, the county board may, following a public hearing, adopt a resolution to continue to elect the county surveyor. This action would then make it unnecessary for Hall County to submit the question on the ballot for the 2020 general election.
Casey Sherlock left his position as Hall County surveyor, Geographic Information System (GIS) director and Hall County public works director at the end of 2017 after 12 years with the county. Scott Peters was appointed to take over the county surveyor’s duties at that time and the public works responsibilities were split out from the position. This was a wise decision on the part of the county as responsibilities for both departments had grown greatly over the years. Peters was elected to a four-year term in 2018, so it will be another two years before voters will see the county surveyor’s position on the ballot.
The surveyor’s position is now directly involved with nearly all county departments and the GIS has become a critically important tool in managing the growth of the county while providing a range of economic benefits. Peters is a true professional and has served the taxpayers well during his time in office.
The resolution by the county board is also important as it will allay a concern over language in subsection 2 of Nebraska Revised Statute 23-1901.01. In essence, if in counties with less than 150,000 inhabitants, the electorate votes against the election of a county surveyor the county “shall appoint a competent surveyor either on a full-time or part-time basis from any other county of the State of Nebraska to such office.”
This somewhat vague statutory verbiage raises a number of concerns. If Hall County were to pass a resolution to do away with the election of a surveyor, the county could wind up appointing a surveyor who lives outside the county.
The general wisdom is to pass a resolution to keep the county surveyor an elected position and, therefore, ensure that the surveyor is a county resident. The Legislature would also do well to add clarifying language to the revised statute.