Why higher pay for mayor, trustees is on the table in Libertyville

Updated 5/11/2018 8:54 PM
  • "Ask the Mayors" luncheons and other activities are among the duties of local mayors, including Terry Weppler of Libertyville.

      "Ask the Mayors" luncheons and other activities are among the duties of local mayors, including Terry Weppler of Libertyville. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville village hall.

      Libertyville village hall. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Annual compensation

    Graphic: Annual compensation (click image to open)

Given the time spent studying reams of information, attending meetings and connecting with residents, the compensation for the mayor and trustees in Libertyville is well below minimum wage.

And they haven't had a raise since 1996.

Libertyville's pay scale of $12,000 annually for the mayor and $4,800 for trustees is similar to that in many small communities. But the spectrum is wide: Lake Forest alderman are not paid and the mayor gets a token $10, while Rosemont Mayor Brad Stephens makes $260,000.

While money isn't the motivator to serve in most community governments, an aging Libertyville village board is considering pay boosts as a possible attraction for younger talent.

The average age for five village trustees and Mayor Terry Weppler is 68. Longtime Trustee Donna Johnson has declined to provide her age, but she recently retired as a corporate attorney. At 54, Trustee Rich Moras is the youngest board member.

The board during a work session this week discussed salaries at the request of Trustee Jay Justice, 80. Justice, a retired corporate executive, is serving his third term and periodically raises the topic.

"Look at us. We're mostly old, retired people," Weppler said during the discussion.

"When I look at our board, we don't have any young people," he added Friday. "I would like to see us get a greater diversity."

That could be a tall order. Would-be board or mayoral candidates need to be able to commit time and either have an occupation that allows them to sometimes be available during work hours or have the financial wherewithal that it doesn't matter.

"Unless you have the right job that has enough flexibility, there's no way you'll be able to do that, said Peter Garrity, who joined the board in 2015 as the top-vote getter among four write-in candidates. Three trustee seats were up for election, but only incumbents Johnson and Scott Adams ran.

"If I wasn't retired, I simply wouldn't have the time," said Trustee Pat Carey, the former police chief who was appointed in 2016 to fill a vacant seat and was elected to a 4-year term in 2017. "The compensation has nothing to do with it."

Weppler said salary isn't an issue for current members.

"None of us are worried about our next meal," he said, advocating a modest increase. "I want people to feel like they're not going to lose money" by serving.

Johnson said a lack of candidates with time or financial wherewithal means some parts of the community are not represented.

"We have to make the role somewhat attractive to pull the best talent pool," she said.

"They just say it's too big a time commitment when I try to recruit people," she added.

Weppler, who appoints members of various commissions that traditionally are steppingstones to the village board, said he has been seeking new blood through Facebook, in the village newsletter and other avenues.

No one advocated large increases, but trustees seemed to agree a boost was in order. Increases wouldn't take effect until after municipal elections in 2019 for trustees and 2021 for mayor.

The village staff was directed to assemble comparables from other communities for future discussion.

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