On Tuesday night the Republican Central Committee elected a new county clerk in Deputy County Clerk Dori Munyan, who will presumably assume her new title when acting County Clerk Anita Garcia resigns on Jan. 9.
Twenty-eight of the 48 elected precinct committee members appointed Munyan after a nomination from County Commission Chair Lon Pishny that was seconded by former county treasurer Raylene Dick. Finney County Republican Party Chairman and County Commissioner Bill Clifford said 16 committee members, or one-third of committee members, are required to form a quorum and take action.
Clifford said he was told by a state official in Topeka that even without formal notification from the governor, the 21-day timer was ticking to elect a new county clerk before the end of December.
Clifford said county clerk replacements in Kansas are always carried out by a precinct party committee that aligns with the party affiliation of the incumbent if resignations occur mid-term.
“So here we were between Christmas and New Year’s,” Clifford said. “I barely got the notice out to the party members, but we did have more than a quorum today — 28 votes, which is pretty good considering it’s the holidays.”
Clifford added that Munyan’s appointment will bring “good continuity” to the county clerk’s office.
Because of the appointment’s timing, Clifford said, Munyan will still be required to file by June 1 for reelection in 2018.
Even with Munyan’s approval by the committee, Clifford said the governor still has to finalize the decision within seven days. He feels confident that final approval will be given as the day of Garcia’s resignation draws near.
Munyan was originally hired in July in anticipation of former Finney County clerk Elsa Ulrich’s departure. Munyan’s resumé had been kept on file from a previous application for another position.
Ulrich stepped down as county clerk last year, but retained a position in the office to assist Garcia as she eased into the role. Ulrich’s last day in the office was Dec. 22.
Garcia cited family issues and stress in her resignation notice earlier this month, according to Pishny. She will not remain in the office in any capacity as Munyan steps in to replace her.
Garcia said she doesn’t have any immediate professional obligations moving forward, but she wished Munyan luck with the position. Clifford said there will now be two openings in the county clerk’s office.
“I think Anita was a real professional,” Clifford said. “She’s a real pro and I think she just knew the office needed her total focus, and she couldn’t give that.”
Clifford added that he feels confident the transition will be smooth.
“We’re very confident in her,” Clifford said of Munyan. “She’s obviously been understudying Anita. She’s come to our county commission meetings. She’s written our minutes. The clerk is the secretary for the county commission, so we already know what she’s like.”
Clifford cited Munyan’s 18 years of experience in the private sector as a financial analyst as a boon to her transition. He said county clerks have a “surprising” amount of financial responsibilities and work very closely with the county treasurer’s office in the publication of the annual mill levy and county tax assessment.
“The last 18 years, all of the things I did with that company, I see a lot of similarities with what the clerk’s office does, a lot of supporting the other departments, a lot of financial analysis, budgets, things like that,” Munyan said of her experience and the task ahead of her. For her, she said, the big new thing will be county elections, even though she was able to participate in the 2017 election process as deputy county clerk.
A Kansas county clerk’s duties are myriad and, in some cases, surprising. According to the Kansas County Clerks and Election Officials Association, duties for county clerks include clerical, budgeting, taxation, human resources and election responsibilities, as well as some interesting miscellaneous duties.
For example, if the sheriff and undersheriff are no longer able to conduct duties of the office, the county clerk becomes the acting sheriff. Even more bizarre, if the sheriff or undersheriff can’t prevent a lynching, the county clerk assumes the duties of sheriff, per Kansas statute.
“I am excited,” Munyan said. “It is a little intimidating. There is a lot to learn and it is a very important position. There’s a lot that comes out of that office that affects the citizens.”
Clifford said the RCC’s mid-term election of a new county clerk shows just how important party committee positions matter.
“I think citizens should step up and fill those positions for both the Democratic and Republican party, so that when positions become available when it matters we have citizens who are willing to serve and take on this duty,” Clifford said. “Twenty-eight of us replaced 8,000 county voters tonight essentially.”
He added that young people interested in getting involved should file by June 1 for election to a precinct position. There are currently six vacant positions in the RCC alone. Zach Worf, chairman of the Finney County Democrats, said a Democratic precinct committee in Finney County does not currently exist because no one has registered to fill those positions. “It’s kind of hard when you only have 12 Democrats in Finney County he said.”
“It doesn’t matter until it matters,” Clifford said of the importance of precinct positions. “This Republican party hasn’t done anything like this for a decade. Suddenly, we’re putting someone in an elected office on behalf of the citizens, so there is responsibility there.”