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Sweetwater County commission approves pay raises for elected officials

FRESHWATER COUNTY — After several weeks of discussions, the Sweetwater County Commission approved salary increases for the county sheriff, attorney, treasurer, assessor, clerk, clerk of the district court and coroner.

This issue came before the committee as a result of a bill passed during this year’s Wyoming legislative budget session. The Legislature passed HB91, which “amends the salaries of county assessors, county attorneys and part-time prosecutors, county attorneys part-time, county clerks, district court clerks, county sheriffs county and county treasurers”.

This bill sets a salary cap of $145,000. Following the Commission’s unanimous approval, salaries for the sheriff and attorneys will rise to this cap, from $100,000 to $145,000.

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“People deserve raises. From my perspective, the sheriff and attorney are up to $145,000,” Commissioner Randy “Doc” Wendling said. The rest of the Commission agreed, given their workload and professional requirements for these positions.

Assessor, Registrar, District Court Clerk, Treasurer

In a 3-2 vote, the Commission approved a salary increase for the Assessor, Clerk, District Court Clerk and Treasurer from $100,000 to $125,000. Chairman Jeff Smith and Commissioner Wendling were the no votes because they thought the increases should have been higher.

The salary amount bounced between $115,000 and $135,000 in several different motions before the decision was made at $125,000.

“We danced and I’m going to make a statement, I feel like we’re spanning dollars for pennies. I think we are close this year, but I think we can get a deal and hopefully it will be on the high end,” Chairman Smith said ahead of the final vote.

He also said during a $115,000 salary motion that he would be “very disappointed if that’s what we approve of.”

The $115,000 amount was decided taking into account a 6% cost of living adjustment (COLA), which county employees received this year, as well as a few additional percentage increases. President Smith wanted salaries increased to $135,000, although he said he could go down to $130,000, which Commissioner Wendling suggested.

Wendling said the $130,000 was between what Campbell County and Natrona County did for raises. County Assessor Dave Divis said the elected officials’ request was for $135,000 because department heads have had a salary adjustment of about 38% since 2015.

“That’s a pretty good indicator, I mean they’re doing more with less and so are we,” Divis said.

The Commission also had to vote on its own salaries, in which it voted 4 to 1 to keep them as is, at $36,000. Wendling was the only vote against.

Coroner

As for the coroner’s salary, the Commission voted 3 to 2 to raise it from $65,000 to $85,000. Chairman Smith and Commissioner Wendling were again both votes against.

There has been some debate over whether the position of coroner is a part-time job, as it requires the coroner to be on call at all times. Although the county defines it as a part-time position, Wendling argued that it should be considered otherwise due to the fact that the coroner is on duty on holidays, weekends and at all hours of the day and from the night.

“Everyone matters or no one matters, so it’s time this coroner was seen as an elected official who is valued like everyone else.” It’s not a part-time job,” Commissioner Wendling said.

He wanted the salary lumped in with those that were increased to $125,000. Smith said he would also be willing to bundle the coroner with those salaries.

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