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How the salaries stack up: A comparison of county salaries in southwest Minnesota

REGIONAL -- After publishing a story in Monday's edition about the amount of money paid to public officials serving Nobles County, the city of Worthington and ISD 518, the Daily Globe reached out to neighboring counties in southwest Minnesota to ...

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REGIONAL - After publishing a story in Monday’s edition about the amount of money paid to public officials serving Nobles County, the city of Worthington and ISD 518, the Daily Globe reached out to neighboring counties in southwest Minnesota to gather salary information.

In this article, we look solely at county salaries - those of county commissioners and of the administrator or coordinator.

According to the information received, commissioners in Rock County collected the lowest annual salary in 2016, at $17,505, while commissioners in Cottonwood County received the highest pay in the six counties of far southwest Minnesota at $20,400. The base salary for Nobles County commissioners in 2016, as reported Monday, was $18,354.

The 2017 salaries for county administrators or coordinators varied from a low of $83,294.37 for Murray County Coordinator Aurora Heard, who has been in her position for nearly five years; to a high of $126,984 for Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson (as reported in Monday’s edition). Johnson began his duties with Nobles County in February 2013.

Nobles County has the largest population of the six counties (44th largest in the state), with 21,770 residents in 2015, according to Minnesota Demographics by Cubit. Next is Cottonwood County (63rd) with a 2015 population of 11,549; Jackson County (67th) with 10,079; Rock County (70th) with 9,600; Pipestone County (73rd) with 9,271; and Murray County (75th of 87 counties) with a 2015 population of 8,413.

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All of the salaries, per diems and reimbursements paid to county commissioners and the county administrators/coordinators are paid through the collection of tax dollars.

Cottonwood County

In Cottonwood County, commissioners received an annual salary of $20,400 in 2016, with board chairman Kevin Stevens paid an additional $1,000.

Adding salaries, per diems and reimbursements, the amounts paid to commissioners in 2016 follow:

Jim Schmidt, District 1: $25,824.05 (salary, $5,424.05 in per diems and reimbursements)

Kevin Stevens, District 2: $28,971.68 (salary, $7,571.68 in per diems and reimbursements)
Donna Gravley, District 3: $24,768.46 (salary, $4,368.46 in per diems and reimbursements)

Norm Holmen, District 4: $30,052.75 (salary, $9,652.75 in per diems and reimbursements)

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Tom Appel, District 5: $27,660.78 (salary, $7,260.78 in per diems and reimbursements)

Cottonwood County Coordinator Kelly Thongvivong will earn a salary of $87,651.20 in 2017. She has been employed as the county’s coordinator since October 2013.

Jackson County

Jackson County commissioners received a salary of $19,000 in 2016, with board chairperson Rosemary Schultz paid a 2016 salary of $19,750.

Adding salaries, per diems and reimbursements, the amounts paid to commissioners in 2016 were:

William Tusa, District 1: $25,124 (salary, $6,124 in per diems and reimbursements)

Don Wachal, District 2: $22,225 (salary, $3,225 in per diems and reimbursements)

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Rosemary Schultz, District 3: $23,575 (salary, $3,825 in per diems and reimbursements)

Kim Hummel, District 4: $19,000 (no per diems or reimbursements requested)

David Henkels, District 5: $22,225 (salary, $3,225 in per diems and reimbursements)
County Coordinator Steven Duncan will earn a 2017 salary of $97,696.70. He was hired in November 2015.

Murray County

All five Murray County commissioners were paid a salary of $19,776 in 2016. Adding in per diems and reimbursements, the total amount paid to each commissioner was:

James Jens, District 1: $29,913.42 (salary, $10,137.42 in per diems and reimbursements)
Robert Moline, District 2: $29,396 (salary, $9,620 in per diems and reimbursements)
Gerald Magnus, District 3: $28,196 (salary, $8,420 in per diems and reimbursements)
Glenn Kluis, District 4: $28,736 (salary, $8,960 in per diems and reimbursements)
David Thiner, District 5: $29,696 (salary, $9,920 in per diems and reimbursements)
Murray County Coordinator Aurora Heard will earn a 2017 salary of $83,294.37. She was hired in April 2012.

Pipestone County

Pipestone County commissioners were paid a salary of $18,885.79 in 2016. Adding in per diems and reimbursements, the total amount paid to each commissioner was:

Luke Johnson, District 1: $25,060.17 (salary, $6,150 in per diems, $24.38 in reimbursements)
Les Nath, District 2: $22,860.79 (salary, $3,975 in per diems)
Bruce Kooiman, District 3: $21,060.79 (salary, $2,175 in per diems)
Dan Wildermuth, District 4: $23,218.87 (salary, $4,275 in per diems, $58.08 in reimbursements)          
Jerry Remund, District 5: $22,353.33 (salary, $3,450 in per diems, $17.54 in reimbursements)
Pipestone County Administrator Sharon Hanson will earn a salary of $107,702 in 2017. She is in her 13th year with Pipestone County.

Rock County

In Rock County, each of the five commissioners were paid an annual salary of $17,505 in 2016. Adding in per diems and reimbursements, the total amount paid to each commissioner was:

Ken Hoime, District 1: $21,010.11 (salary, $2,400 in per diems, $1,105.11 in reimbursements)

Stan Williamson, District 2: $20,299.50 (salary, $2,025 in per diems, $769.50 in reimbursements)

Ronald Boyenga, District 3: $20,514.31 (salary, $1,725 in per diems, $1,284.31 in reimbursements)

Sherri Thompson, District 4: $21,491.34 (salary, $2,625 in per diems, $1,361.34 in reimbursements)

Jody Reisch, District 5: $27,177.36 (salary, $5,475 in per diems, $4,197.36 in reimbursements)

The 2017 salary for Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre is $105,530.88. Oldre, in his 24th year of employment with the county, also serves as emergency management director, personnel director, safety director and clerk to the county board.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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