Willmar City Council approves salary increases for elected officials and fee increase for filing for office
Filing fees for those seeking elected office in the city of Willmar will increase to $20 from $5, and salary increases will put Willmar at the top of the list for comparable cities.
WILLMAR — Willmar City Council on Monday approved ordinances increasing elected officials' salaries.
The council also approved an increase in the filing fees for those running for city office, from the current $5 to a fee of $20.
Both ordinances passed in a split 7-1 vote, with Councilors Julie Asmus, Rick Fagerlie, Michael O’Brien, Vicki Davis, Justin Ask, Audrey Nelsen and Andrew Plowman voting in favor, and Councilor Tom Butterfield voting against.
Cities the size of Willmar are allowed to charge candidates for elected office up to $40 when filing to run for office, according to City Operations Director Kyle Box. After discussion at the Oct. 17 City Council meeting, the council directed staff to set the filing fee at $20.
Starting in 2023, the mayor’s salary will increase to $19,250 from $12,000, and councilor salaries will increase to $12,500 from $7,500. The mayor pro tempore’s salary will increase from $500 to $750.
When introducing the ordinance, Box noted that Willmar elected officials’ salaries are currently in the middle range of elected officials’ salaries in comparable cities.
The increase would put Willmar at the top of the list, but Box encouraged the council to consider how they value their time — and that of future elected officials — when considering the increase.
The last salary increases took place in 2006 and 1995, according to Box.
During discussion at the Oct. 17 meeting, Calvin noted that when he was trying to solicit candidates to run for mayor after making the decision not to run, he reached out to about 20 people and was told numerous times that the city needs to increase the salary of elected officials.
He also noted that council members can decrease their salary at any time, but if they want an increase in salary it can only take place during general election years and must take place before the election.
“I think these numbers are good solid numbers and these are numbers I certainly would support. Certainly, the work that you all do, if you looked at your hourly time, you could probably figure out that you only make a couple bucks an hour,” Calvin commented. “It’s not unusual for me, as the mayor, to have 20-plus, probably close to 25 meetings a week.”
He noted that council members also take on a lot of good and hard work, and the increase would be a benefit to the city’s citizens.
Plowman, who did not seek re-election to his term ending this year, noted that he was contacted by several people who were interested in being council members and serving in that position, three of whom he honed in on thinking they would be good, solid candidates.
“Their primary driver was definitely not (financial but) … it’s not a life-altering amount of money,” he said. “However, the one thing that they did all mention is, ‘we have families, we’re all busy, our time is worth something.’”
They knew that they would be doing something constructive and for the greater good, Plowman noted, but they also thought it would be nice to have some compensatory value added.
He noted that many people with young families have strained finances, with family members picking up additional part-time work to make ends meet or to just have some extra spending money.
“I think the last time that this was amended or that this was changed was a long time ago, and so I believe that whatever change would take place would last a long time into the future, I would assume. So, being on the front end of that I think would be OK,” he added.