After more than four decades working in city and county government, Latah County Auditor, Clerk and Recorder Henrianne Westberg announced this week she plans to step away a year before the end of her second term for personal reasons.
Westberg, who turns 70 next year, said she has been working for the county and city in various capacities since she was 26.
She took her first job with the county in 1977, typing out registration forms for the Department of Motor Vehicles on a typewriter. She said it was just a year after she first moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho. She soon married a local farmer and never left.
In the years since, Westberg said she took various turns working in the county auditor’s office, district court and in the City of Moscow’s finance office. She said the breadth of her experience has given her broad knowledge of virtually every aspect of local government, which is important as her offices oversee a huge swath of county business.
Westberg, a Democrat, ran unopposed for the combined county clerk/auditor/recorder position in 2014 when longtime county clerk Susan Peterson chose not to run and none of Peterson’s staff showed interest in the position. In 2018, Westberg again ran unopposed and was reelected to a second four-year term.
Westberg said her replacement will be appointed by county commissioners from a list of three nominees selected by the Democratic Central Committee. Whoever is selected will serve for the final year remaining in Westberg’s second term and potentially run again in 2022.
Over the years, a great deal of progress in a number of sectors of county work, including elections, budgeting and auditing has been made with Westberg’s participation or oversight.
She said it’s difficult for her to step away from a job she is so personally invested in, but she hopes her successor approaches the job with the same care she has shown in her seven years as auditor, clerk and recorder.
“I love county government,” she said. “I want (my replacement to be) somebody who loves county government as much as I do, because you can really make a difference at the county level in people’s lives.”
When county commissioners officially accepted Westberg’s resignation in their Monday meeting, some held back tears.
“I don’t have a lot of mentors in my life, but Henrianne is a big one. She’s been an incredible role model and an incredible resource,” Commissioner Kathy LaFortune said. “Having her in that position is incredible because she’s managed that department so, so well.”
“She’s the best county clerk in Idaho and we’ve been spoiled having her here, and it’s going to be really hard,” Commissioner Tom Lamar said.
While they said they were sad to see her go, commissioners repeatedly said that, because of the care Westberg has taken in delegating responsibilities and training her staff, they feel they are being left in good hands.
Westberg said she relies on experienced, well-trained staff to keep the myriad duties assigned to her offices running smoothly. While she’s pretty hands-on with the budget, she admitted she couldn’t just step in and do many of these jobs at the drop of a hat, saying “when you have this many employees you just become a manager.”
She said it’s important to her that whoever takes over her position takes good care of her staff.
“My first and foremost concern was my 20 employees having someone who would look out for their best interest, continue to allow them to advance and have good training and be promoted,” she said. “My management style is very empowering. I like to hire someone and let them do the job and just ask them ‘What kind of tools do you need to do this job.’”
In the minutes after Monday’s meeting, other county officials lauded Westberg’s dependable demeanor, and ability to demand respect from both sides of the political fence.
“She’s well respected — Republican, Democrat, it doesn’t matter,” said Commissioner Dave McGraw.
“(She’s) the most professional, competent, organized person that I’ve ever worked with. She has a way of getting things done in a timely manner (and) she’s open to communication from everyone,” County Treasurer BJ Swanson said, calling Westberg her chief mentor. “I think her mission was to have the county be the best county in Idaho, and I think she’s done that.”
Jackson can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.