Close vote on 2021 raises wraps up Davison County board business for the year

3-2 vote passes recommended raises, emphasizing lower-paid employees

Davison County North Offices. (Republic file photo)
Davison County North Offices. (Republic file photo)

One of the last votes of the year was one of the closest for the Davison County Commission.

The five-person board voted 3-2 to approve raises for county employees at a rate 2.5 percent for those who are paid at a rate higher than $20 per hour, while employees below that threshold will receive a raise of 50 cents per hour.

Commissioners Brenda Bode, Randy Reider and Kim Weitala voted in favor of the recommended increase, which is what the board agreed to in principle on Dec. 8. Commissioners John Claggett and Denny Kiner voted against the measure, saying they would have liked to see larger raises. It is one of the few Davison County Commission issues in 2020 to be decided by a single vote.

It assures that the county’s elected officials and county employees will all receive the same 2.5 percent raise, while the lower-paid employees will receive at least that much with the 50-cent per hour raise. For example, an employee who makes $17.70 per hour will go to $18.20, a raise of 2.82%. Another way of looking at it, Reider told the commission, every employee will receive a raise of at least $1,040 for the year.

But the proposal had pushback from some county office leaders. Register of Deeds Deb Young and Treasurer David Beintema attended the meeting Tuesday and advocated for larger raises. Each department has two deputies that are under the $20/hour threshold and it was estimated that nearly 60 of the county’s 100-plus employees are in that category.


“They need a little more than that,” said Young, explaining some employees aren’t in line with the starting city of Mitchell wages for similar positions. “It’s a slap at that. We can be a little more competitive with those waged employees.”

Proponents for the recommended increase said the county covered a larger share of health insurance costs in county plans. Bode also said it’s not necessarily appropriate to compare county and city pay because benefits can differ greatly.

“I think we gave fair consideration,” Bode said. “Would we like to give big raises? We would. Over $1,000 for the year, that’s money in your checkbook. That’s not a slap.”

Speaking with the Mitchell Republic after the meeting, Kiner admitted he might have voted on the wrong side of the issue. He said his discussion with Reider after the vote regarding the county’s health insurance is a big deal for employees. He said he just wants to look out for the “little guy” in compensating county employees.

“I guess I have a big heart when we talk about this,” Kiner said.

Claggett said his focus remained on trying to bring the pay floor of the lowest-paid employees up.

“We’ve made great strides in catching that up. Ten years ago, we were all over the place, when it came to wages,” he said, adding that he would have liked to see a designed percentage plus 50 cents per hour.

Most years, the county has had raises of 2 percent plus 50 cents per hour, but changed that to 1 percent plus 50 cents ahead of 2020. Opponents to that have said it only widens the divide between the highest- and lowest-paid county employees.


The commission discussed raises on Dec. 8 without much consternation. It’s estimated that those raises will cost an additional $104,000.

Reider said it’s OK that the county alters the formula each year, because circumstances change.

“You’ve got to be flexible and fluid,” he said. “In any given year, your cost of living could go up or down and there could be all kinds of different factors that change.”

The commission approved raises of 2.5 percent for themselves for 2021, as well. That brings their pay for 2021 to $18,560 per commissioner, with an additional $2,400 to the chairperson. That vote passed 4-1, with Reider dissenting.

“It’s not a big raise. It’s a small increase,” Reider said. “I voted against it because I thought we were in an adequate position, compared to other commensurate counties.”

Board discusses part-time deputy attorney position

One other notable vote took place on Tuesday, the final meeting of the year in which the board approves pay for 2021. The commission discussed the contract with James Taylor’s law firm to serve as a part-time deputy state’s attorney.

The commission had about a 10-minute conversation about Taylor’s role and where his position fits in the county’s employee structure. Weitala said she wanted to understand when the commission might be able to discuss changing the contract, either adding or eliminating responsibilities.

By having a professional services contract, the county is able to have Taylor as an additional deputy state’s attorney under State’s Attorney Jim Miskimins, but Taylor is not exclusive to the county and can take on other clients and cases.


The idea of ending Taylor’s contract was not discussed but Bode dismissed the idea anyway.

“I’m just trying to figure out the history of this. We’re not trying to get rid of him,” she said. “That’s not what we’re talking about.”

Reider was the lone dissenting vote on the contract, which passed 4-1. He said he objected to the raise because he didn’t feel the raise was appropriate.

“We pay a significant amount of money for that service and I don’t see that it needs to be raised, for how much we pay for that service,” Reider said.

With the approval, the commission will pay $51,803.96 to Taylor’s firm, and Taylor provides county officials legal advice, particularly on county business, contracts, zoning and land use issues.

Taylor had received more than $78,000 as part of the annual contract until 2017, when the county approved hiring another full-time deputy attorney to handle additional victim notification mandates related to the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment passed in 2016. At the same time, the county changed its contract with Taylor to part-time, saving an estimated $31,000.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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