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Our Opinion: Re-appoint Nelson as veterans service officer

On Tuesday the Crow Wing County Board will decide whether to reappoint Bob Nelson as the county's veterans service officer (VSO) for another four-year term.

On Tuesday the Crow Wing County Board will decide whether to reappoint Bob Nelson as the county's veterans service officer (VSO) for another four-year term.

We hope they do.

One thing most everyone seems to agree on is Nelson is exceptional at his job of serving veterans in Crow Wing County. A recent state audit ranked Nelson's office as eighth out of all county VSOs in terms of collecting benefits.

What could be more important than that for a veterans service officer?

Nelson's job performance, however, is being scrutinized by his supervisors in Crow Wing County Community Services. Not for his work with veterans but because of the other bureaucratic duties expected of a department manager.

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"Our VSO has not complied with the direction provided by his supervisor," Kara Terry, director of community services, told the county board at a Feb. 10 performance evaluation of Nelson. "He has outwardly refused, resisted and been vocally critical of our expectations. His performance as a member of our leadership team is unacceptable."

Among issues with Nelson's job performance cited by county supervisors is that he didn't have a business plan in place for addressing various veteran populations, he had not put any result-oriented metrics in place, he failed to complete one of his two employees' performance reviews in time and he was described as disengaged in leadership team meetings.

We're not saying those issues aren't valid, and if they help the veterans service office improve service they should be addressed. However, they are not the main function of the office and not Nelson's primary job. He was hired to help veterans and by all accounts he is extremely successful at it. A vast majority of veterans we've heard from say he is doing a fine job, as noted by those who are rallying in Nelson's support and those who have written Reader Opinion letters to the Dispatch. That is what he should be judged upon.

Nelson is one of three department heads the county board appoints to four-year terms, yet he does not report directly to the county board. His position instead falls under the community services hierarchy. Perhaps it's time to move the veterans service office back to reporting directly to the county board.

In the past few years Crow Wing County has made improving customer service a priority. Nelson does that for county veterans and he should be reappointed so he can continue doing providing that service. Nelson himself had it right - the needs of the veterans come first.

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