The Baldwin County Commission passed a resolution today requesting that the state legislature increase their compensation 91 percent, from $34,000 to $65,000 annually, effective in the next term. Three of four commissioners supported the resolution, with Commissioner Bob James voting in opposition.
“I think we need to realize we’re still in very tough economic times and I think this is wrong time to address this issue,” James said at the commission’s regularly scheduled public meeting Feb. 4.
Commissioner Tucker Dorsey disagreed, saying a higher pay scale would attract potential candidates who weren’t “retirees or millionaires.”
“I’m not embarrassed by this,” Dorsey said. “As a citizen of Baldwin County, I want my commissioner to be devoted to the job and as voters, we have to make sure we elect and hire people dedicated to job. My first [year in office] there was discussion about this being a part-time job, but there is nothing about this job that is part-time.”
Dorsey, who was elected in 2010, said he’s spent money from his own pocket “travelling the world selling Baldwin County” and commissioners are expected to be experts on everything from economic development to tourism.
“With complete respect to fellow commissioners, it’s very difficult to live a life on $32,000 a year and have complete dedication,” he said. “It makes it very difficult.”
The resolution was authored with the help of State Rep. Joe Faust and State Sen. Trip Pittman, the commission said, and was being pushed forward now because of an abbreviated legislative session and its associated deadlines.
Baldwin County Commissioners were last given a raise in 2005, when their pay was increased to $34,000 from $18,000, according to County Administrator David Brewer. As recently as the 1990s, commissioners were only paid $15,000 annually, he said. By comparison Mobile County Commissioners’ compensation is about $91,000 annually.
In September, the commissioners passed a budget that included a 2.5 percent pay increase for all county employees and reinstated a previously frozen merit pay system. County workers also received a 4.5 percent cost-of-living raise in 2011, according to records.
When the floor was opened for comments, a resident of Lillian was the only person to speak, saying he admired the current commission’s work ethic and supported the resolution.
“There might be some people who think this shouldn’t happen,” he said. “I think we can’t pay them enough.”
Eighty-one-year-old Commissioner Frank Burt, who has served six terms, said before he retired from his career as a pharmacist, he frequently put county priorities before his professional duties.
“I love doing this job and I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “I wasn’t doing it for the pay. But if you try to relate pay to time spent serving the people i don’t think the amount we’re asking for is too much.”
The local bill will need approval by the state House and Senate before the Governor can amend the law.