County board gives preliminary OK to $117,269 salary for executive

County board gives preliminary OK to $117,269 salary for executive

URBANA — Champaign County Board members went on the record Tuesday night to affirm that the county should continue to have a professional administrator, even after the election of the first-ever Champaign County executive next year.

And in a separate vote, they set the salary of the county executive at $117,269, beginning on Dec. 1, 2018, and increasing to $122,006 on Dec. 1, 2021. The vote was 11-9, with Democrats Lorraine Cowart, Pattsi Petrie and Giraldo Rosales joining with most of the board's Republicans (except Max Mitchell) in favor of the salary.

An amendment to cut the salary to $70,000 a year for the entire four-year term of the position was defeated by the same 11-9 vote.

Tuesday's vote was preliminary, coming at a committee-of-the-whole meeting, and the question will be taken up again at next week's full meeting of the board.

Mitchell, a Champaign Republican, said that he heard from constituents who were opposed to the higher salary.

"I've been in the community, and the people that have talked to me didn't say that we need you to support $117(,000). They opposed it, and they opposed it strongly," Mitchell said.

But Petrie, a Champaign Democrat, said the county has to reverse years of poor decisions by the county board.

"We're in this situation because of bass-ackward decision-making by previous boards on both sides of the aisle. It isn't one party or the other. This has been going on since the downtown jail situation, and it's stupid. We're doing stupid again," said the former county board chairwoman.

She said the county board "hasn't accomplished a whole lot because we haven't moved ourselves forward."

She said the $70,000 salary wouldn't guarantee that "anybody elected into this office takes this office seriously, sees this as a full-time job and needs to move forward for the county."

The salary of $117,269 would put the county executive position on par with the county sheriff's pay. So far there are two announced candidates for the position: Democrat Darlene Kloeppel of Urbana and Champaign Republican Gordy Hulten, currently the county clerk.

Meanwhile, a resolution calling for a professional county administrator to serve with the elected county executive was approved, 12-8, with the support of all the board's Democrats, plus Republican Mitchell.

Urbana Democrat Chris Alix, who advocated the resolution, acknowledged it was "largely symbolic" and that it would not be binding on future county boards.

But he argued a professional administrator would provide the county board with "objective, accurate information."

He said county board members would be at a disadvantage "if their only source of information is the county executive, a politician with an agenda and an ideology who might only want county board members to see their side of the story."

Two board members — Republican Brooks Marsh and Democrat Shana Jo Crews — were absent.

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Westsider wrote on September 13, 2017 at 9:09 am

I would point out to Ms. Petrie that she was chair during 2 years of this period she said the county failed to accomplish anything.