The citizens group responsible for setting the salaries of the Thurston County Commission and making recommendations on the salaries of other county elected officials were in a giving mood on Monday, deciding that they deserved more money than was initially proposed.
The Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials met Monday to hear public comment about a proposal to increase commissioner pay 3% to $135,864 in 2024, plus a variety of pay increase proposals for the Thurston County Assessor, Auditor, Clerk, Coroner, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer for the same year.
The salary group started its discussion with the county commissioners. They pointed out that the commissioners did not receive a raise last year, so they felt they deserved more than what was proposed, starting the discussion at 7% instead of 3%.
“I’d have trouble supporting anything quite that high,” said Bill Thomas, chairman and a District 2 representative to the salary commission.
Cary Randow, a business representative to the board, countered with a 5.8% increase.
“It shows a little restraint over 7% but still sends the message that we’re trying to make these positions competitive,” Randow said, adding that the salaries should be high enough to attract the most qualified people to run for office.
That’s where they settled, voting to approve a 5.8% increase, which next year will boost commissioner pay to $11,630 per month, or $139,560 per year.
The salary group then moved on to its recommendations for the other countywide elected offices.
They recommended a 12% increase for the Prosecuting Attorney, which was the proposed amount. But they recommended more money above the initial proposals for everyone else.
Instead of 5% increases for the Sheriff and Auditor, they recommended 7% for the two positions. And instead of 3% boosts for Assessor, Clerk, Coroner and Treasurer, they recommended a 5.8% increase.
Megan Walsh, District 1 representative to the salary group, said that the job of Auditor is one of the occupations that seems to get progressively harder.
“I just think it’s a job that we can’t afford to not have the best person doing it,” she said. “We’re lucky we have a great auditor.”
The salary group only makes pay recommendations for the countywide positions to the county commissioners. If the commissioners approve the recommendations, here’s what those officials would make in 2024.
▪ Prosecuting Attorney: $223,908.
▪ Sheriff: $174,360.
▪ Auditor: $141,132.
▪ Assessor: $139,560.
▪ Clerk: $139,560.
▪ Coroner: $139,560.
▪ Treasurer: $139,560.
During the public hearing, the salary commission heard from former and current elected officials, including former state Sen. Karen Fraser, Auditor Mary Hall and Sheriff Derek Sanders, all of whom spoke in favor of the proposed increases.
Sanders pointed out that there are those in his department who make more than he does. That sets up a strange dynamic at election time, because the job can be viewed as a cut in pay by some of those in law enforcement, he said.
Chairman Thomas also read aloud some of the written comment received by the commission.
▪ “I agree with the proposed raises. We want to attract the best and brightest elected officials we can find in Thurston County.”
▪ “The Sheriff should make more money than he does.”
▪ “Auditor is an incredibly difficult job with so many responsibilities. That’s more true now with so much attention on elections.”
▪ “The increase for Prosecuting Attorney is way too much.”
▪ “The only one who deserves a raise is the Sheriff. Everyone else on the list is just waiting to be lobbied.”
▪ “The rest of us are having to live with what we have. They should as well. It’s insane that it is even being proposed.”