Candidate wants hourly wages for DuPage board members

One Democratic hopeful for the DuPage County Board is suggesting a simple solution to ensure board members are earning their pay: An hourly wage.

None of the four Democrats in the District 6 primary race say the $50,000-a-year pay for county board members should be reduced.

But newcomer Lauren “Laurie” Nowak says no one is documenting whether DuPage board members are spending enough hours on county-related business to justify that annual salary.

“Change the pay from salary to hourly,” Nowak said during a Daily Herald endorsement interview. “If you are doing the work part-time, then take half the pay.”

The 24-year-old Bartlett resident is one of four candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to three District 6 seats on the county board. Nowak’s opponents are incumbent Dirk Enger, 51, of Winfield; Terrell Barnes, 35, of Roselle; and Dave Barry, 62, of Bartlett.

The primary winners will face a trio of Republican nominees in the November general election. District 6 includes all or parts of Aurora, Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Glendale Heights, Hanover Park, Naperville, Roselle, St. Charles, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago, Wheaton and Winfield.

Nowak made her pitch for hourly wages during a discussion on whether board members should be paid $50,000 a year. Board members also are eligible to receive health insurance and a pension through the county.

Enger said he devotes at least 35 hours a week to representing District 6. In addition to attending county board meetings, Enger said he helps residents and goes to community meetings throughout the district.

He said the position of county board member is worth $50,000 a year “if you’ve shown the commitment that I’ve done.”

Barnes says the salary for board members is competitive and in line with the industry standard, given the size of the county. Barry said the salary is needed to attract qualified people.

However, Nowak says she doesn’t believe board members devoting 20 hours or less per week to county-related business deserve $50,000 a year.

“This plan would be to ensure that people either put in more hours to get the $50,000 salary, or that people who are not putting in the hours are not walking away with the salary of someone doing twice as much work,” Nowak said.

If elected, Nowak said she plans to document how she spends her time as a board member and post that information online. The other Democrats in the race say they wouldn’t object to turning in time cards.

Enger is one of three county board members who decided not to participate in the pension program. Board members Tony Michelassi and Robert Larsen also opted out of the retirement fund.

Nowak, Barry and Barnes all said they have no desire to get a pension for being a county board member.

“My father worked his entire life in order to get a pension,” Barry said. “I don’t think part-time elected officials deserve a pension. I think it’s just plain wrong.”

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Terrell Barnes
Lauren Nowak
Dave Barry
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