Two Republican incumbents, a Republican newcomer and two Democratic hopefuls for DuPage County Board District 4 offer a variety of ideas on what constitutes fair pay for the county board.
Democrat Dan Bailey, a registered nurse from Wheaton, said county board members should be paid and should even receive pensions and health benefits, but their compensation needs to be more closely aligned with regular staff.
“I think it should be fair,” Bailey said. “It seems that the county board members and some other elected officials are treated far better with better salaries and benefits than the county employees who provide direct services to constituents full time.”
If elected, Bailey said he will take the $50,000 annual county board salary, but pledges to continue working without pay as a nurse at the free clinic where he is currently employed.
He also said he would forego a pension until he serves enough time to earn it the way county workers do. County board members are vested after eight years, whereas county workers must wait longer.
Democratic newcomer Charles Ditchman, an architect from Wheaton, said he was “flabbergasted” when he learned county board members earn roughly $50,000 a year for a job that requires a minimum of 1,000 hours work, as well as a publicly funded pension and health benefits.
He said DuPage residents he meets on the campaign trail are surprised and “outraged,” too.
“I can understand maybe a stipend, or a fee, because you’re missing time out of work,” Ditchman said. “But (health) benefits, a pension and $50,000 to work a couple days a month? I think that seems a bit outrageous.”
Ditchman pledged not to take a pension and said county board salaries should either be halved or brought down to minimum wage.
Republican incumbent Grant Eckhoff, a lawyer from Wheaton, said he is already leading by example within the county board by not accepting a $2,000 raise in 2004, 2005 and from 2008 to the present — a total of $14,000 in pay.
“I think everyone could cut back the $2,000,” Eckhoff said, adding that some compensation is fair due to time required for board members to attend board meetings, committee meetings and community events.
Eckhoff — who has served on the board for a decade — does contribute to a pension. But he added that he believes pensions should be eliminated and county board members should be allowed to fund a 401(k) instead.
Republican hopeful Amy Grant, a former fashion buyer and seller from Wheaton, said she initially wanted to review board member’s salaries to see if they needed to be cut, but now realizes the job requires time that is commensurate to the $50,000 salary.
“I go to a lot of meetings, and I can tell you that these guys work hard, very hard,” Grant said. “The county board is very successful at many things (because) they sacrifice, they stay later at work and work hard often into the night.”
She said she would not take a pension, since the system “does not seem to be working well in the state of Illinois.”
Incumbent Republican Jerry “JR” McBride, an insurance agent from Glen Ellyn, said his opponents make good points, but his experience tells him the pay is fair and pensions should be eliminated.
“When I first ran, I didn’t know (the board) paid anything,” McBride said, adding that he initially ran for the board for the sake of community service. “I voted against the pay increase.”
McBride does contribute to a pension but said it happened due to a clerical error in the county human resources department. Once a board member is in the pension system, he or she cannot opt out.
“It’s a great pension, it’s just not going to work down the road,” McBride said, referencing the state’s pension crisis. “The pension is not a good idea and that has been my position during my tenure.”
The District 4 term will be for either two or four years.
With the exception of the chairman’s post, all county board seats are up for election. That’s because once every 10 years, the county redraws district boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census results.
Next, the county board will hold a lottery to determine which three seats will start with 4-year terms, and which will have 2-year terms.
District 4 includes all or parts of Addison, Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Glendale Heights, Lombard, Winfield and Wheaton.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.