Cutting expenses may be a common theme at election time but one candidate for the Lake County Board has a novel suggestion of what might be done.
James Creighton Mitchell Jr., one of three Republican candidates seeking the District 3 seat, considers it a volunteer position that doesn't warrant the current pay scale.
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"I'm not doing it for a paycheck. It's not a full-time job," said Mitchell, a water plant operator from Lindenhurst. He is challenging incumbent Jim Newton also of Lindenhurst, a former newspaper reporter who was appointed to the spot about a year ago, and Tom Weber, a self-employed contractor from Lake Villa.
Newton disagreed with Mitchell, and Weber said he would need to know more about the time involved in the positions before making any decisions.
Mitchell is on the Lake Villa District Library board and the Lake County Regional Board of School Trustees. He also was twice appointed to the county board in the 1980s and has run for Congress and U.S. President.
In a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire and interviews, Mitchell said cutting salary and benefits for county board members, who also serve as forest preserve district commissioners, could save almost $1 million.
He contended that both posts "barely requires 600 hours of work" and that board members and commissioners don't work a 40-hour week.
"It's a volunteer position. If you run for it because you need it as a job, you're not putting the public first," he said.
If elected, Mitchell, who plans to retire at the end of the year, said he would propose ending salary, health care benefits and pensions for county board members.
County board members receive an annual salary of between about $41,000 and $44,000 and another $3,000 for serving as forest district commissioners.
Newton disagreed with Mitchell's assessment, saying the position is unlike volunteer positions such as on a village board.
"It's what you make of it," Newton said. "I've made it made it my full time job and I don't feel it's inappropriate to get the salary I'm getting." He said time is spent not only at county and forest board and commission meetings but also responding to constituents on various issues and assisting in situations such as last summer's power outages.
"Every day I'm doing county work for sure and some days it's all day. I did leave a job I love to take a lower salary," he said.
He noted he hasn't seen either challenger at county or forest board or commission meetings.
Weber said that when he decided to run he didn't know the position paid more than $40,000 but salary has nothing to do with his candidacy.
"I thought it was a stipend. I actually don't know what all the benefits are," he said. "I don't like to point fingers at anybody unless I've sat there. Once I get there, my purpose is to shrink government."
Proposing no pay would be "ignorant for someone who's not in that position," Weber added.
"That's like someone telling me how to run my business," he said.
Weber said he would need to see for himself what the workload was like before making any decisions.
District 3 covers Lindenhurst and Round Lake Heights and portions of Lake Villa and Round Lake Beach. The winner of the March 20 primary will face Democrat Dale Kehr, a trainer from Lindenhurst.