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Douglas County weighs chairman salary increase

Douglas County is considering raising the board chairman's salary or offering health insurance in an effort to attract more interest in the position.

Supervisor Keith Allen has proposed increasing the chairman's $15,000 annual salary or providing health insurance to improve the ability of working people to take on the role.

"In my mind, there is no way for someone who isn't retired or semi-retired ... I'd like to see it open to more people," Allen said. "We're trying to get young people involved."

He said the current pay limits the number of people who can take on the job.

The county board chairman's salary was last modified in 1996.

Supervisor Doug Finn, who long served as the chairman, said he was able to buy insurance through the county. He was able to collect more of his salary after he turned 65 and become eligible for Medicare.

"I do not want to put a face on this, but I do want to put some reality on it" said the current chairman, Mark Liebaert, referring to Jim Paine, former county board vice chairman and current mayor of Superior. "I always think of Mr. Paine as being a very good leader. Obviously, he was capable of running for mayor and he's serving well in that capacity. It would have been 20 years before he could run for county board chair because he has a family."

Liebaert said it's obvious the position doesn't pay well enough to let someone quit his or her job. While he quit one job to fulfill his responsibilities as county board chairman, he said, he still has his farm.

He said he couldn't do the job without his wife's insurance, which has been threatened.

"You are limiting your pool of people who can do this because the fact is that still need insurance," Liebert said. Douglas County's Executive Committee decided not to change the chairman's salary, but it will provide health and dental insurance to the chairman and one family member at the same cost county employees pay starting in 2018.

The full board will consider the change in compensation when the board meets to consider the 2018 budget at 6 p.m. Oct. 31.

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