County executive candidate: $117,269 salary too high

County executive candidate: $117,269 salary too high

URBANA — The lone announced candidate for Champaign County executive said today the preliminary salary for the position — $117,269 — is too high and should be modified.

The county board is expected to take a final vote on the salary for the new position at Thursday night's meeting.

Last week at a county board committee of the whole meeting three salary levels — $29,274, $70,000 and $117, 269 — were voted on. The highest salary, supported by the board's Republican bloc and three Democrats, got the greatest number of votes.

"I think it would be better to set it either at the midpoint or a little bit lower," said candidate Darlene Kloeppel, an Urbana Democrat. "Eventually it may rise if the job requires that. Eventually there may be money available to pay for a second deputy, or some kind of part-time person or to hire a consultant. There are lots of options on how that could be spent.

"It seems that to put that all in one person upfront not knowing who that will be seems a little unwise to me."

Kloeppel said that $70,000 a year "would be a little bit higher than the midpoint. I'm not picking a number."

The salary level chosen by the county board will be the executive's salary for his or her first four years in office, beginning in December 2018.

Also Wednesday, former state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson endorsed Kloeppel to be the county's first elected executive.

"She has such a great history of serving the public and doing things because she thinks they're right. And that's what we need, somebody in that position who knows how to get things done," the Urbana Democrat said of Kloeppel.

Kloeppel was community services director at the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission for 15 years.

Meanwhile, county board member Josh Hartke said Wednesday that Democrats will make another effort Thursday to reduce the executive's salary.

He said that when the county chamber of commerce and farm bureau proposed the position last year, they said it would be a "zero-sum game" and that the cost would be no greater than today's cost of a county board chair and appointed county administrator.

"Well, starting off by changing a $30,000-a-year county board chair into a $117,000-a-year county executive there's absolutely no way to make this a zero-sum game," he said. "You can be guaranteed that there will be help hired in this eventually, whether it's keeping Rick Snider (the current appointed county administrator) on longer or somebody hiring their own person."

Hartke charged that county board Republicans "are being partisan on this issue and I worry that it's just to give a friend a good salary again because we constantly see this with these countywide (elected position) salaries where they want to raise them, raise them, raise them."

Hartke, who last week voted only for the $29,274 salary for the executive, on Wednesday said that, "I can also understand that people want to give somebody some incentive to run and, honestly, I will work with people to find a compromise position."

"If we have to go to 70 to get 12 votes (from the 22-member county board), I guess that's what we have to do," Hartke said. "My job is to count to 12. I think that $30,000 is a place to start, but if 70 is what gets it done that's what I'm for. I think 117 is just absolutely, astronomically out of place."

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C in Champaign wrote on August 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm

It is no suprise that County Board Democrats would want the salary for the elected executive to be as low as possible. They opposed the elected position to start with,  and they know, given the fact that Republicans hold all but one county wide elected office, it is highly unlikely that a Democrat will win this position, so now they want to make sure it is as unattractive as possible for anyone, especially Republicans, that are considering running. 

rsp wrote on August 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm

This is the same county board that is talking about laying off 30 people? But when it comes to giving a friend a job money is no problem.

I have a thought, get rid of the Recorder of Deeds office and hire Sheldon. Everyone likes him and he likes working for the county. The consolidation with the clerk's office will help cover the costs.

annejasons wrote on August 24, 2017 at 3:08 am

I think at least $100 is good enough for that type of job regardless of the party affiliation. However, will the county Administrator position be eliminated? Will the county need to eliminate positions to afford to pay the County Exec Administrator?