Elected officials present salary recommendations

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Freeborn County’s elected officials made their 2023 salary requests Tuesday in a workshop with the county board of commissioners. 

The board in January set the minimum salary for the county sheriff and attorney as required by state statute each year before an election. At that time, the board set the minimum sheriff salary at $110,000 and the minimum attorney salary at $120,000. 

County Administrator Candace Pesch said Sheriff-elect Ryan Shea spoke with the commissioners about his experience with the Sheriff’s Office, including as a patrol deputy, sergeant and detective, and what he will bring to the table with his knowledge and abilities. He also spoke about what the sheriffs earn in other comparable counties.

Ryan Shea

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Pesch said the commissioners and Shea also discussed the salary for the chief deputy position, which is appointed by the sheriff and on the regular county wage scale. Neither the sheriff nor the chief deputy are allowed overtime. 

Shea ultimately recommended $116,500.

“It was a very good conversation, it was a realistic conversation and it was a very thoughtful conversation,” Pesch said. 

Current Sheriff Kurt Freitag this year made about $123,725.

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker recommended an increase in his salary from $126,000 to $134,000. 

In a memo he provided to the commissioners, he compared salaries in 11 counties that had a population within 5,000 of Freeborn County. The average salary was $134,090, while the lowest salary was in Le Sueur County at $121,544 and the top salary was in Steele County at $150,408. 

The memo also included information about his duties and responsibilities, qualifications, experience and performance. 

David Walker

He said his office has had five jury trials this year, four cases in the appellate courts, and is coordinating with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office on three cases, including one for murder, attempted murder and a sexual psychopath commitment.

The memo states among other accomplishments, he has overseen setting up misdemeanor prosecution agreements for all eligible cities in the county, assisted in the county administrator selection and dealt with property tax appeals, data requests. He has also provided legal advice in extraordinary matters, including on the former Union Pacific Railroad trail, the Freeborn County Fairgrounds, child care licensure, semi-independent living services, South Central Community Based Initiative, courthouse improvements and petition, among others. 

The county is slated to receive its first payment of almost $26,500 for litigation tied to opioids. 

The county also recently hired a new assistant county attorney, who started in the position a few weeks ago.

The board is set to vote on the salaries, along with their own salaries as commissioners, and the final levy, during its Tuesday meeting. 

Pesch said the average commissioner salary for the district is $27,000. Freeborn County commissioners currently earn $23,795 annually, while the lowest in the district is Houston County with $19,000.

She noted the large volume of work commissioners do — much more than simply attending a few meetings at the courthouse each month. 

Pesch said county administration gave the board several scenarios to consider ahead of the meeting to reduce the increase from 4%, which the board preliminarily approved in September. That number can be lowered when the budget is finalized but it cannot be raised. 

She said the levy increase typically covers increases in operational costs, this year in large part due to inflation, as well as proactive planning for expenses the county knows will be coming up. The county sets aside money for reserves in the event of a catastrophic event.