Pay raise considered for Wicomico Executive’s post

Members of the county’s Compensation Commission this week discussed a pay increase for the County Executive, whose annual salary of $85,000 is lowest among such offices in the state.

They agreed to review other salaries for the position statewide and decide on a recommendation to the Wicomico County Council at their next meeting, on Sept. 25. Their report to County Council is due in November.

If approved, an increase would take effect after the election next year.

Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver is serving his first four-year term. He is being paid the same amount as former County Executive Rick Pollitt, who was in office eight years, from 2006 to 2014.

Commission Chairman Dr. Memo Diriker of Salisbury University said the salary range for top county leaders in Maryland is $85,000 to $206,000.

In Anne Arundel County, it’s $136,000, $190,000 in Montgomery County and $178,000 in Howard County, with the average ranging from $139,000 to $152,000, since there are benefits plus paychecks.

Once the County Executive’s salary is determined, commission members will discuss salaries for the sheriff, who now earns $95,000 annually; president of the County Council, who earns $18,000 per year; council vice president, who earns $17,000; and council members, who earn $16,000.

At the meeting on Monday, commission members stressed the importance of attracting highly qualified candidates to run for County Executive.

Member Mike Dunn asked if the commission is asking too much by asking for a raise for the County Executive plus a cost-of-living adjustment. Diriker recommended putting both numbers in the report and allowing the council to approve or delete.

“They can do anything they want. They can ignore it. They can change the number.  We are only making a recommendation,” he said.

The commission has recommended a raise for the County Executive three times, including in 2013, when the suggestion was $98,724; the County Council did not approve it, Diriker said.

Commission member Pete Richardson said $85,000 was never high enough for the position.

“Now we’re (more than) eight years out and it’s still at $85,000. There are no other jobs that require that much responsibility … and we’re paying our County Executive $85,000. The County Executive should make at least more than the Clerk of Court,” he said.

“As I’ve tried to make the point to a couple council people, you get what you pay for. There are people who might consider running for this position if there was more money involved,” Richardson said.

“We’ve got some people who are competent but they can’t afford the cut in pay. … Our biggest problem is not going to be the amount of money. Our biggest problem is going to be the relationship between the executive and the County Council. We’ve got to get the County Council beyond that,” he said.

If even one person was qualified but chose not to run because of the salary, “We would have failed the community,” Dunn said.

Dunn offered an example that he said would take the matter out of the political arena. The General Manager of Kohl’s department store is the highest-paid person there, so the County Executive should be the highest-paid person in the county, he said.

Member Mark Rudnick stressed the importance of attracting the highest-qualified candidates.

Member Kathleen McLain said there are people who aren’t going to like an increase for the County Executive “because it’s more money than they make.”

“The problem is, that’s what the County Council goes by, because that’s who elects them,” McLain said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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