Veteran county director named interim city elections head

A veteran Hennepin County manager and director on Friday was named Minneapolis’ interim elections director.

Through December, Patrick O’Connor will fill the shoes of departed Elections Director Cynthia Reichert, who on June 5 left her post for a similar position at Anoka County. Reichert had steered the city’s preparations for its new ranked-choice voting (RCV) system, and O’Connor said he’s ready to step in where she left off.

“It’s going to be a lot of hard work,” he said.

O’Connor said that, of that work, key will be educating the voters. He said he expects a major education effort to get under way soon. But he also said there’s the issue of the actual counting of votes. Because no machines exist to work through RCV’s runoff methods, results will be announced at a slower pace than people have become used to, O’Connor said.

“We were always proud to beat the 10 o’clock news,” O’Connor said. “Well, we’re not going to beat the 10 o’clock news now, I tell you.”

He said his job won’t be to decide whether he himself — or anyone else — likes RCV. It’ll be to run the best possible election under the new system and provide the City Council with hard data once counting is complete. People can take more informed positions afterward.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we can fairly evaluate it when it’s over,” he said.

O’Connor’s résumé includes 27 years of employment with Hennepin County, during which time he filled such roles as manager of accounting and director of the Taxpayer Services Department, which oversees county elections. He retired in 2006, although for parts of 2008 and 2009, he served as interim Ramsey County manager, overseeing the county’s overall operations while it searched for a permanent manager.

“I am so thrilled,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward), the elections committee chairwoman. “… This is a guy who has been around the block.”

The City Council voted 12-0 to approve the appointment. O’Connor will start June 15.

Reach Cristof Traudes at 436-5088, [email protected] or at twitter.com/sctraudes.