Elected officials’ deputies get a pay raise

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Wages increased to match deputy treasurer

In the end, the long-delayed battle for pay raises for Oconto County’s deputy clerk, register of deeds and clerk of circuit courts turned out to be anti-climactic.

After postponing a vote twice in recent months, the county board listened to impassioned pleas May 24 from the elected officials who run those offices. Then, with almost no discussion, supervisors voted unanimously to approve the pay increases.

In January, the county board passed a resolution raising the deputy treasurer’s wage from $22.96 an hour to $24.09 to keep the person who holds that position from taking another job. A month later, the Personnel and Wages Committee presented a plan to give similar increases to the deputy clerk, register of deeds and clerk of circuit courts.

Supervisors voted 15-11 to delay a decision on the recommendation until their April meeting, arguing that the board would be getting a makeover in the April election and the new set of supervisors should have a say.

In April, with eight new faces among the 31 seats on the board, supervisors again voted for a delay to give the newly reconstituted Personnel and Wages Committee a chance to review the matter.

The committee came back with essentially the same resolution, setting the wage at $24.09 an hour, and the three elected department heads braced for a battle.

Register of Deeds Annette Behringer had another commitment and was unable to attend the meeting but sent a strongly worded letter on behalf of her deputy.

Behringer noted that during her employment with the county, she has seen situations where three of the four elected officials have left their jobs, and the deputies were given the responsibility to train new elected officials who had no prior experience in the office.

Deputies need to be well-versed enough in the functions and laws pertaining to their offices to be able to run them in the absence of the department head, Behringer said.

“I am truly grateful for the confidence that I have in my deputy that allows me to take this time off and out of my office today — the same confidence that I am sure the other elected officials have with their deputies,” she wrote. “You, as leaders of this county, can rest assured that in the event of any of the current or future elected officials being unable to fulfill our commitment in the terms of our offices, a knowledgeable, well-qualified individual is ready to step in and provide the services required,” she concluded.

County Clerk Kim Pytleski and Clerk of Circuit Courts Mike Hodkiewicz echoed Behringer’s remarks.

Hodkiewicz recalled that his immediate predecessor, Grace Peterson, was unable to continue in office because of health concerns, and deputy Ferry Marek ran the office until he was elected — and then Marek trained him.

“If there’s one word I can describe as a chief deputy, it’s heartbeat,” he said. “The chief deputies of these offices are the heartbeat of these offices.”

He reminded long-term supervisors of a meeting shortly after he took office in which it was determined “all of our chief deputies are going to be treated the same.”

After the board voted 29-0 to increase the wages, Hodkiewicz stood and said, “Thank you.”