MANKATO — Incoming Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott will receive the same salary as outgoing County Attorney Ross Arneson under salary adjustments approved by the County Board Tuesday.
While McDermott will be a rookie when it comes to running the entire office, he has spent two decades as a prosecutor in the office and has supervised the criminal prosecution division for several years.
"I think the board's opinion was, given his success in the election process, he should be compensated at the same level (as Arneson)," County Administrator Bob Meyer said.
Arneson didn't seek re-election after more than 27 years in the post. McDermott, who easily won election Nov. 4, will earn $136,386 in 2014 — the same as County Sheriff Brad Peterson, who was re-elected without opposition to a sixth term.
Meyer also noted McDermott's long experience, his supervisory role over the criminal prosecutors in the office and the fact his duties will match Arneson's.
"Ultimately, the decisions he has to make are the same as the previous county attorney," he said.
The salary schedule across the county is based on analysis by a private consulting firm of the duties, level of responsibility and decision-making required of various positions.
The board made no changes to the wages of elected county officials — sheriff, county attorney and county commissioners — other than providing a 2.5 percent general wage adjustment also provided to other county employees. The percentage, approved for non-union employees and supervisors as well as elected officers, matches the amount negotiated with union workers.
The board unanimously approved the 2015 salaries without comment. For commissioners, who also receive benefits such as health insurance, the 2015 salaries will be $34,687.
Meyer is Blue Earth County's top-paid employee and will earn $154,585 next year.
Meyer recommended no change in per-diem payments, which commissioners collect on days when they attend meetings. For longer meetings or days with multiple meetings, the extra pay is $75. For days when the beginning of the first meeting and the end of the last meeting are separated by less than 4 1/2 hours, the per diem is $50.
The board agreed to stick with the 2014 per diems in 2015. Commissioner Drew Campbell said counties in Minnesota vary widely in how they pay per diems, including some that pay a premium if meetings stretch from morning to night.
But the Blue Earth County rates are essentially in the middle of the pack, Campbell said: "We're right in line with a lot of them."
Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg said he wants to re-examine the per diems in the coming year, suggesting that those payments better reflect a commissioner's commitment to the job because they are based on how active a particular member is in attending meetings of committees, task forces and boards.
"I'd like to see us look at this more in the future," Stuehrenberg said. "It's the per diems that really show if your county board is working or not."
Campbell also said he would consider future adjustments, particularly a higher per diem for overnight conferences.