Traverse County redesigns gov.

Published 9:38 am Thursday, December 15, 2011

Traverse County Coordinator Janet Raguse reacts to comments from a passing county commissioner (not pictured) in the entrance to the Traverse County Courthouse in Wheaton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. Raguse says her county enjoys good collaboration with adjacent counties. These relationships benefit everyone, especially citizens. -- Ann Arbor Miller/for MPR

By Jennifer Vogel, Minnesota Public Radio News

WHEATON — With just 3,558 residents, or six people per square mile, Traverse County is Minnesota’s least populated, and it fits most common definitions of frontier. It can be lonely.

So people in the farming community along the South Dakota border have come to rely on a far-flung network of agencies and collaborators to serve a sparse population, one of the oldest in the state. The county is a case-study for redesigning local government.

County Coordinator Janet Raguse can rattle off a list of partnerships with other counties: shared staff, information systems and grants — some dating back to the 1960s. The county splits a public health director with Stevens and Grant counties, probation services with four counties and a veteran services officer with Grant County. The veteran services officer also manages Traverse County’s safety and solid waste.

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