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Douglas County Board to consider salaries of elected officials

The clerk of courts would get a raise, but the administration committee did not recommend changing the sheriff's salary.

Government Center in Superior.jpg
Government Center Boardroom, Superior, Wisconsin. (Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram)
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SUPERIOR — The next clerk of courts could be getting a 2% annual raise over the next four years, but the next sheriff won’t see a pay increase for the entire four-year term in office.

Brian Witt brings 27 years of law enforcement experience to the table.

That’s the recommendation the administration committee made Thursday, March 3, to the Douglas County Board as it considers salaries for elected officials on the ballot this fall.

The clerk of courts currently earns $67,008 annually, while the sheriff’s salary is $90,361 per year.

As someone who has run for sheriff in the past, board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he would be happy with the sheriff’s salary as it is.

The panel was presented three scenarios in which salaries increased 2% annually for the first two years in office and were given the option to increase salaries the remaining two years by 1%, 1.5% or 2%.

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“I don’t know what others feelings are, but it bothers me,” Supervisor Nick Baker said. “The clerk of courts, they have a process to go through. They have a job to do. Basically, the sheriff has to take an oath of office and return the keys to us when he’s done.”

Baker said it didn’t make sense to pay someone $97,000 a year when they don't have to show up or submit reports to the county.

With a 2% pay increase each year, the sheriff would earn $97,810 in the final year of term.

“I checked on the average for Wisconsin sheriff’s and its $62,900 for the average sheriff in Wisconsin,” Supervisor Rosemary Lear said.

Supervisors Sam Pomush, who also serves on the board of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, said in talking to officials in the 10-county region, other counties aren’t paying their sheriff $90,000 per year.

“Basically, we should keep it the way it is,” Pomush said. “It’s a lot of money we don’t have.”

Administrator Ann Doucette said part of the reason the sheriff’s salary is so high is because of past adjustments made to the pay scale; there was a time when the sheriff and the chief deputy would have earned the same salary.

“I’ll live recklessly,” Baker said, making a motion to increase the clerk of courts salary 2% for each of the next four years, but maintaining the sheriff’s salary without any increases.

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“If we could connect it to someone with hours put in, I would gladly go for the increase," Baker said of the sheriff.

“We will have a new sheriff in 2023,” Doucette said.

Sheriff Tom Dalbec announced in January that he would not be seeking reelection.

The committee unanimously approved the motion, which was seconded by Liebaert.

The Douglas County Board will consider the recommendation March 17. If approved, the clerk of courts would earn $72,532 in the last year of the term, while the sheriff’s salary would remain at $90,361 for four years.

This story was updated Thursday, March 10 to correct a statement made by Supervisor Nick Baker. It originally posted at 8 a.m. March 6.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.