The seven-member Dallas County Compensation Board held its annual meeting Dec. 22 and recommended giving raises to all of Dallas County’s elected officeholders, including hefty 20% pay hikes for the county’s auditor, recorder and treasurer.
The compensation board’s generosity also extended to a 10% raise recommended for the county sheriff, a 6% boost for the county attorney and a 4% increase for the three county supervisors.
The liberality of the all-Republican compensation board members toward the all-Republican slate of eight county officeholders contrasted sharply with the two-year wage freeze Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds offered one week earlier to Iowa’s 19,000 unionized workers, including nurses, university staff, corrections officers and other frontline workers who faced extraordinary risks and stresses in 2020.
The compensation board is authorized by the Iowa Code to take a yearly look at the salaries of “comparable officers in other counties of this state, other states, private enterprise and the federal government” and to adjust the pay of Dallas County’s elected officeholders accordingly. Each member of the board is appointed by an elected officeholder and represents that officeholder. The supervisors appoint two representatives.
The Dallas County Compensation Board is currently composed of the following members:
- Nick Gruber of Waukee, chairperson and county sheriff representative
- Kellie Paschke of Waukee, vice chairperson and county recorder representative
- Keith Troester of Adel, county treasurer representative
- Kara McClure of Dallas Center, county attorney representative
- John Strathman of Cumming, county auditor representative
- Ferris “Butch” Handcock of Waukee, county supervisors representative
- Thomas Book of Adel, county supervisors representative
Before the board deliberated on salaries for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, it listened to brief presentations by several county officeholders, who formed a kind of mutual admiration society. The steady growth in Dallas County’s population and in their own workloads was a common theme in the presentations.
Five-term Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard said the size of his office has more than doubled since he was first elected in 2007 and now numbers 95 employees. The size of his jail has also more than doubled just this year with the opening of the new Ortonville law enforcement center.
Leonard’s partner in crime, so to speak, first-term Dallas County Attorney Chuck Sinnard, praised the dedication of his fellow pubic servants.
“You hear a lot of complaints about government nowadays,” Sinnard said, “but I can tell you that the officials in Dallas County do this job for one reason and one reason only, and that’s because they believe in public service.”
Second-term Dallas County Treasurer Mitch Hambleton said county residents benefit from the dedication of his fellow pubic servants.
“It’s all good for the taxpayer,” Hambleton said. “It’s a privilege to work here, a privilege to work for the taxpayers of Dallas County.”
Third-term Dallas County Recorder Chad Airhart said the county has “grown not just population-wise but work-wise considerably in our office.” Airhart said his office now records more transactions each year than the recorder offices in Johnson, Story and Woodbury counties.
“I think public service is important,” he said. “It’s important at all levels. That’s why I do it. At the same time, it’s nice to be compensated in a fashion that’s rewarding for it. I think all of us could probably go elsewhere and earn a greater living, make more money, but we do this because we believe in public service.”
First-term Dallas County Auditor Julia Helm noted the county’s accelerating rate of real estate transactions, including the six new Waukee subdivisions her office processed just on Tuesday.
“Real estate is moving at record pace in Dallas County, and we don’t see that ending,” Helm said. “It creates new challenges that really are unique to Dallas County, that even with Polk and Story and Johnson, they do not experience the kinds of stress and growth pains that we have.”
Having heard from the five officeholders, the compensation board thanked them for their service.
“Growing up in Dallas County, I think we have the best elected officials now than we’ve ever had in this county,” said Compensation Board Chairperson Nick Gruber. “There’s been huge changes in everything you guys have done. All of them have done a fantastic job, and I’m very proud to say that I am part of Dallas County.”
The board then considered how the Dallas County salaries compared to those of officeholders in other counties. The benchmark the board used was a salary range that placed Dallas County officeholders as the fifth- or sixth-highest paid in the state, which is the range the county would have to pay to hire an unelected employee to do the same work.
“I feel that our officials, you know, they’re seasoned in their positions,” said Keith Troester, the treasurer’s representative. “They’ve been here a while. They’re also performing at a fully satisfactory level. If we were to go outside, if they were an employee, we’d more than likely be bringing in at a step E,” that is, at about a $110,000 annual salary.
The board also compared the wage rates of officeholders with the rates paid to the county’s own department heads — such as the county engineer, finance/operations director or IT director — who are county employees and not subject to election.
Kellie Paschke, the recorder’s representative, observed that the pay of some Dallas County officeholders “has fallen below, quite a bit below, you know, any of the department heads that we have, the directors that are on the report.”
After crunching the numbers and chewing the fat, the board voted unanimously to approve the following compensation schedule for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, shown in the far-right column in the table below:
The Dallas County Supervisors will review the compensation board’s salary recommendation and either approve or amend them during their budget hearings early in 2021. According to Iowa Code, the supervisors cannot approve raises that “exceed the compensation schedule recommended by the county compensation board.”
On the other hand, the supervisors may vote for smaller raises than those recommended by the compensation board, but the recommended raise for each official must then be “reduced an equal percentage.” For example, if the supervisors decided to reduce the recommended 20% raise for the auditor, recorder and treasurer to, say, a 10% raise, they would then be required to reduce the recommended 10% raise for the sheriff to a 5% raise and similarly proportionally for the other officeholders.
Once approved by the supervisors, the new pay rates will take effect July 1, 2021.
The boost in the politicians’ pay might be the biggest but will not be the first raises the Dallas County Supervisors have seen lately. The three part-time supervisors gave the nod Dec. 8 to raises for the county’s 130 non-union employees. The higher wages will take effect Jan. 5, 2021, under the county’s new pay plan.
According to Dallas County Human Resources Director Beth Deardorff, the January wage hike for pay-plan employees will amount to about 1.8%, a rate based on the county’s formula of using 75% of the employment cost index (ECI), as published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ECI for civilian workers was 2.4% for the 12-month period ending in September 2020.
Dallas County’s unionized workers — also numbering about 130, according to Deardorff — are under their current contracts until June 30, 2022, unlike the 19,000 unionized state workers whose wages Reynolds aims to freeze.
In Dallas County, four unions separately negotiate employment contracts with the county. The Teamsters Union Local 238 represents workers in the Dallas County Sheriff’s office and the Dallas County Secondary Roads Department. AFSCME Council 61 represents employees in the Dallas County Attorney’s office. The Dallas County EMS Professionals Union represents the emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the Dallas County EMS Department.
Dallas County’s union contracts are published on the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board and are available for viewing.
The county’s department directors will see the following increases in their compensation in FY2021-2022 over their FY2020-2021 pay:
Assessor Steve Helm, from $130,939 to yet to be determined
Assistant to the Board of Supervisors Melinda Harney, from $52,656 to $54,038
Finance/Operations Director Rob Tietz, from $124,883 to $128,215
Conservation Director Mike Wallace, from $106,434 to $110,559
Central Point of Coordination Darci Alt, from $110,781 to $116,156
E-911 Coordinator Terry McClannahan, from $83,262 to yet to be determined
Emergency Management Director A. J. Seely, from $85,247 to yet to be determined
EMS Director Mike Thomason, from $98,679 to $102,665
County Engineer Al Miller, from $131,810 to $138,073
Environmental Health Director Ted Trewin, from $82,784 to $84,262
Human Resources Director Beth Deardorff, from $92,227 to $110,559
Information Technology Director Todd Noah, from $119,787 to $125.087
Planning and Zoning Director Murray McConnell, from $105,290 to $110,559
Public Health Director Suzanne Hegarty, from $94,931 to 100,161
Veterans Affairs Director Nick Praska, from $68,255 to yet to be determined
The following raises for non-union county employees under the county pay plan were approved Dec. 8 by the Dallas County Supervisors. The new wage rates will take effect Jan. 5, 2021. Some of the raises are expressed in hourly rates, and others are in biweekly rates.
Adkins, Christopher G., Environmental Education Coord., from $2,674.40 to $2,726.41
Barnhouse, Zachary D., Crew Supervisor, from $26.15 to $26.63
Berg, Jaclyn K., HR Generalist, from $1,985.60 to $2,237.69
Bhattarai, Bishwas, Appraiser II, from $31.73 to $32.44
Blair, Thomas E., Crew Supervisor, from $27.07 to $27.98
Blobaum, Cynthia A., Naturalist (Sp. Act. Ast.), from $26.95 to $27.98
Book, Andrea G., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $18.76 to $19.80
Brady, Kristin A., Paramedic Crew Chief, from $18.80 to $20.00
Brim, Kaci Michelle, Jail Alternatives Coordinator, from $23.55 to $26.63
Brown, Heather D., Sr. Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $21.77 to $22.40
Buelt, Kenneth, Paramedic Crew Chief, from $18.80 to $20.00
Cable, Curtis C., Deputy Director-Biologist, from $2,306.40 to $2,595.04
Case, Andrew J., Assistant County Engineer, from $3,435.20 to $3,852.34
Chapman, Chris M., Tax Supervisor, from $25.80 to $26.63
Chihak, Abigail G., Community Health Admin., from $2,481.60 to $2,864.43
Cline, Mary B., Real Estate GIS Supervisor, from $25.07 to $26.63
Cochran, Ann E., Health Nav. Program Coord., from $2,394.40 to $2,469.99
Connor, Eric P., Information Services Tech., from $25.17 to $26.63
Coons, Gary Lee, Paramedic Crew Chief, from $21.14 to $22.00
Cox, Leslie, HR Payroll and Benefit Admin., from $2,602.40 to $2,659.91
Crawford, Lisa K., Senior Recording Clerk, from $25.06 to $25.98
Devig, James A., Assist. to Roadside Biologist, from $27.30 to $27.98
Dominguez Aldridge, Vivian, Health Navigator, from $26.58 to $27.29
Farber, Renee L., Accounts Payable Technician, from $21.32 to $21.86
Faux, Randall L., Mechanic (Roads), from $28.58 to $29.39
Fisher, Krista D., Service Coordinator, from $23.08 to $24.12
Fitch, Christine A., PT Office Assistant, from $18.58 to $19.80
Franz, Debra R., Restorative Justice Specialist, from $24.29 to $25.35
Freestone, Penny K., Accounting Administrator, from $2,696.80 to $2,794.57
Garrett, Jacqueline M., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $18.76 to $19.80
Gibson, Cliff G., Asst. Dir Information Serv., from $3,553.60 to $3,666.72
Gilchrist, Sarah L., PT Outreach Coord., from $18.83 to $21.86
Gish, Jacob A., Roadside Technician, from $21.53 to $21.86
Hagelberg, Nancy L., Motor Vehicle Administrator, from $2,768.00 to $2,864.43
Havlik, Michael D., Naturalist, from $25.24 to $26.63
Hemmer, Ryan P., CPC Assistant, from $21.78 to $24.12
Herring, Ronald E., Facilities Crew Leader, from $26.12 to $26.63
Hick, Steven W., Shop Supervisor, from $30.21 to $31.65
Hooper, James E., Facilities Technician II, from $26.05 to $26.63
Hupp, Jon R., Mechanic (Roads), from $25.95 to $26.63
Hysell, Tiffany A., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $17.60 to $19.80
Jaime, Junior S., Jail Alternatives Coordinator, from $23.10 to $26.63
James, Sheryl L., Administrative Coordinator, from $24.12 to $24.73
Jenchel, Andrew S., Appraiser II, from $29.57 to $30.88
Jensen, David A., Engineering Tech., from $26.00 to $29.39
Johnson, David M., Appraiser II, from $31.73 to $32.44
Jones, Kim M., Mechanic (Roads), from $28.58 to $29.39
Juarez, Walter O., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $22.67 to $23.54
Kempf, Lisa M., Office/Financial Coordinator, from $28.89 to $29.39
Kilson, Elizabeth R., Planner, from $23.51 to $26.63
King, Danielle R., Sr. Elections Clerk, from $20.49 to $21.86
Kisting, Cynthia L., Recorder Administrator, from $2,628.00 to $2,726.41
Kruse, Jeffrey P., Tech. Inspector II, from $32.17 to $33.25
Kuehl, Martin E., Facilities Technician I, from $24.65 to $25.35
Lande, Rachele D., IS Project Coordinator, from $2,848.80 to $2,936.05
Larson, Samuel T., Principal Planner, from $2,762.40 to $2,864.43
Lester, Kayla R., Administrative Coordinator, from $26.73 to $27.29
Livingston, Jay A., Appraiser II, from $29.57 to $30.88
Malmberg, Peter A., Museum Curator, from $2,544.80 to $2,595.04
McArdle, Cheryl A., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $19.98 to $20.80
McIlrath, Marcia A., Recording Clerk, from $22.53 to $23.54
Merrick, Emily Rae, Recording Clerk, from $18.21 to $19.80
Merrick, Matthew John, Natural Resources Manager, from $24.32 to $26.63
Miller Collison, Lindsay A., Sr. Real Estate Clerk, from $19.64 to $21.86
Mitchell, Tiffany E., Real Estate/Election Clerk, from $17.48 to $19.80
Moorhead, Renee L., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $17.25 to $19.80
Morman, Breanna J., Jail Alternatives/Service Coord., from $23.09 to $25.35
Murphy, Michael J., Natural Resources Tech. I, from $16.41 to $21.86
Murphy, Sarah M., GIS Admin., from $2,764.00 to $2,864.43
Myers, Robert J., Natural Resources Tech. I, from $19.33 to $21.86
Ockerman, Jeffrey L., Roads Superintendent, from $2,870.40 to $2,936.05
Owen, Kimberly J., Elections Admin., from $2,694.40 to $2,694.40
Perleth, Logan W., Appraiser I, from $24.27 to $27.98
Portzen, Summer G., Appraiser II, from $31.73 to $32.44
Pullin, Tammy L., Roads Accounting Technician, from $24.78 to $25.35
Riedemann, Garrett L., Info. Services Tech.-Split, from $24.70 to $26.63
Schirm, Jamie D., Engineering Tech., from $26.00 to $29.39
Schroeder, Clarice E., Jail Alternatives/Service Coord., from $21.72 to $25.35
Scott, Joyce A., Part-time Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $22.12 to $22.40
Seibert, Rose M., Office Assistant, from $21.89 to $22.40
Shelton, Teresa M., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $21.70 to $22.40
Shoafstall, Rhonda S., Public Health Nurse, from $2,788.80 to $2,864.43
Short, Amy J., PH Program Coord., from $2,150.40 to $2,237.69
Sieck, Gregory A., Natural Res Mgr.-Kuehn, from $27.11 to $27.98
Sieleman, Peggy A., Administrative Assistant, from $26.59 to $26.63
Skoog, Holly L., Property Tax Clerk, from $20.32 to $21.32
Smith, Heather R., Motor Vehicle Supervisor, from $25.80 to $26.63
Smith, Sarah N., Appraisal Technician II, from $19.82 to $20.80
Straub, Kelsey M., Assessor Administrator, from $2,300.80 to $2,350.98
Tarin, Jordan L., Service Coordinator, from $21.77 to $24.12
Tews, Brandon M., Program Coordinator/Compliance Off., from $2,760.00 to $2,864.43
Uthe, James U., Roadside Biologist, from $35.12 to $35.81
Wagers, Richard L., Sign Technician, from $26.89 to $27.98
Weber, Eric J., Asst. Dir. Finance/Operations, from $3,369.60 to $3,490.03
Welch, Toby J., Environmental Health Spec., from $2,360.00 to $2,409.75
Wells, Andrea C., Motor Vehicle Clerk, from $17.25 to $19.80
Wetrich, Michael L., Mechanic (Roads), from $28.46 to $29.39
Williams, Holly B., Accounting and Elections Clerk, from $18.21 to $19.80
Zika, James M., Natural Resources Tech. II, from $25.75 to $26.63