Wilkening requests retirement benefits for elected officials
Nobles County commissioners hear request during Thursday morning work session.
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening came before commissioners during a Thursday morning work session to ask them to consider a policy that would provide continued benefits to elected officials after they retire.
Wilkening said he’s checked with other Minnesota counties, and some offer a continuation of benefits while others do not.
Wilkening said county employees get to accumulate paid time off, bank the hours and have it paid out as cash or rolled over when they retire. Elected officials — which includes the sheriff, county attorney, auditor-treasurer and recorder — do not accumulate paid time off.
“Electeds do not get vacation or sick time,” Wilkening said. “If you look at the law, (electeds) only have to show up once per quarter, but if you want to get re-elected, you have to show up to work.”
Seeing the issue as one that could impact a candidate’s election, Wilkening said he was bringing it forth now, when none of the elected positions are up for election in 2021.
“I’d like to have a continuation of benefits for so many years,” Wilkening told commissioners. Just how many years would be something for commissioners to decide. Wilkening said one county provided two years of benefits for every term the person was in office, with a cap of approximately 12 years, while a couple of other counties offered the benefits for life.
“A lot of them do one year for every term,” he added.
Wilkening, who has served as Nobles County Sheriff for 22 years, said he’d like commissioners to consider offering the benefits to elected officials who have served a minimum of three terms (12 years).
“Even when I’m on vacation, I’m still working,” he said. “I put in a lot of extra hours that people don’t even notice.”
Nobles County has some retired employees who have remained on the county’s insurance plan, and Human Resources Director Sue Luing said those individuals pay the premium for their health insurance.
Commissioner Bob Demuth noted that several commissioners would be better off with Medicare than staying on the county’s insurance plan.
“Right now, the county pays about $35,000 a year for my benefits,” shared Wilkening. When he retires and the county sets the salary for the new sheriff, Wilkening estimated the new salary would be about $40,000 a year less, resulting in a cost savings to the county.
Wilkening said if the county extended benefits to elected officials upon retirement, it might give people more incentive to stay working for the county longer.
Since the request was made during a work session, commissioners could not act on it. It isn't yet known if the request will advance to a county board meeting for further consideration.