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Our view: Streamline SOS office? Start with desk

Herald editorial board A website dedicated to office organization notes that a clean desk can "protect your company, your clients and your reputation." That quote comes from a resource page operated by the Shred-It company. "Most business project...

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Al Jaeger

Herald editorial board

A website dedicated to office organization notes that a clean desk can "protect your company, your clients and your reputation." That quote comes from a resource page operated by the Shred-It company.

"Most business projects require confidentiality, and everyone in the office handles documents that contain important and often confidential information," the website notes. "That means everyone in your office must protect documents and data from unauthorized access, internally and from outsiders. Maintaining a clean desk policy reduces this risk."

This is sage advice, and it's something we urge North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger to consider as he begins what he has declared will be his final term in an office he has held since 1992.

Jaeger recently won re-election, beating Democratic challenger Josh Boschee, 47 percent to 40 percent. A third candidate, Mike Coachman, received 13 percent of the vote.

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Jaeger, a Republican, ran as an independent after he was bypassed by the GOP at the party's convention in April. When it was learned the party's selection, Will Gardner, had a controversial past, Gardner removed himself from consideration. That pushed Jaeger back into the race as an independent.

During the campaign, both Boschee and Jaeger talked about modernizing the office. If Jaeger is serious, he will start by cleaning his desk.

A Boschee campaign commercial showed Jaeger's desk, covered with a mountain of clutter. A check last week showed it's just as bad as portrayed in the commercial - in some spots, papers are stacked more than a foot high.

On the secretary of state's website is the job description for that officeholder. Among the requirements:

■ Custodian of the Great Seal and other official state documents.

■ Keeps a register and attests the official acts of the governor.

■ Receives, records and files original bills and resolutions from each legislative assembly.

■ Is the state's chief election officer.

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■ Files petitions for measures.

■ Files oaths of office for legislative, judicial and executive officials.

■ Receives candidate filings from those seeking office.

■ Files campaign disclosure reports of candidates, parties and committees.

Note the numerous references to "receive" and "file." It's because the secretary of state is indeed an executive secretary, responsible for receiving, filing and organizing records.

We suppose Jaeger would argue that the condition of his desk has not impeded his ability to organize state papers. That may be so; after all, we're not saying something has been fouled up. Yet as the state's chief organizer, it's not about past success, but future assurance that documents will not be lost and that elections will be run without issue. Clutter does not assuage concerns about disorganization, nor does it set an example for the staff of such a high office.

During his recent campaign, Jaeger said he has earned the trust of North Dakotans with his attention to detail. He also made reference to streamlining the office. That sounds like a campaign promise, and now he gets his chance.

A good place to start would be to clean his desk.

Related Topics: OUR VIEWAL JAEGER
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