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County Council approves raises for executives and other elected officials

The Pierce County Council has approved 2.5 percent salary increases for the auditor, the assessor-treasurer, the sheriff and the county executive.
The Pierce County Council has approved 2.5 percent salary increases for the auditor, the assessor-treasurer, the sheriff and the county executive. Staff photographer

Come January, seven Pierce County elected officials will get raises.

Tuesday, County Council members approved a recommendation from the Citizen’s Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials that grants a 2.5 percent bump to the auditor, the assessor-treasurer, the sheriff and the county executive.

The nine-member commission, which draws its authority from the county charter, submitted its recommendations in July, after researching comparable salaries for elected officials in surrounding jurisdictions.

Here’s what those salaries will look like in 2019:

Executive Bruce Dammeier — $196,938.

Sheriff Paul Pastor — $158,791.

Auditor Julie Anderson — $138,675.

Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan — $138,675.

The numbers place the Pierce County officials in second place among their counterparts in the state’s biggest counties, according to records from the salary commission’s deliberations. For instance, the King County executive makes $231,654. The Snohomish County executive makes $178,581.

(Tuesday’s vote did not affect the salary of the county prosecutor, which is governed by different rules and state laws.)

The vote was 4-2, with council members Dan Roach and Pam Roach opposing. Councilmen Doug Richardson, Derek Young, Rick Talbert and Jim McCune voted yes. Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg was absent.

The vote includes a side effect: a raise for some County Council members, but not others.

Under the terms of the charter, council member salaries are set at 60 percent of the executive’s salary. The charter prevents members from raising their own salaries in their current elected terms.

That means four council members — Richardson, McCune, Ladenburg and Pam Roach — won’t see raises next year. Instead, their salaries will remain at the current level of $112,938.

On the other hand, three members who occupy council seats up for election this year will start new terms next year. Those members will see an increase, and salaries of $115,761. Two of those members will be new, since incumbents Talbert and Dan Roach are term-limited. One member, Young, is running for re-election, and would receive the raise if he wins.

Mindful of political implications, Richardson tried to soften the impact of the salary decision.

“This may give the appearance that we are voting for a pay raise for ourselves, but we are not,” he said Tuesday.

The speech had little effect on Jon Cronk, a county resident who attended Tuesday’s council meeting and spoke against the salary increases.

“Are you guys really going to do this?” Cronk asked. “Do you really think this is a good idea? Do you know what the median income of Pierce County is? You don’t deserve a dime.”

The spectacle of elected officials voting to raise the salaries of other elected officials carries inevitable tension, a point Richardson, the council’s chairman. acknowledged in an interview before Tuesday’s vote.

That’s why he’s pondering an amendment to the charter that would give the salary commission the power to set salaries rather than recommending changes. The idea is still in its early stages. Richardson said it’s already in effect in Snohomish County and in some cities.

“I don’t want to go through this every two years on salary stuff if there’s a logical way to just do it,” he said.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486 @seanrobinsonTNT
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