Salary, full-time status discussed for Ramsey County VSO position

Harry Lipsiea Journal Reporter
Ramsey County Commissioners Bill Mertens, left, and Myrna Heisler discuss the veterans service office position Tuesday evening.

The county veterans service officer position was discussed in length Tuesday evening at the regular meeting of the Ramsey County Commission. Ultimately, commissioners noted that the possibility of creating the position as full-time is a possibility, but it will take time.

The position's salary was also brought up frequently, but the commission made no action in changing the current rate.

The topic was brought to the table by Ramsey County Veterans Officer Stacy Twete. Hired in January, he is currently the part-time officer in both Ramsey and Nelson County.

After watching the recordings of the last two commission meetings, he was disappointed that his salary in the department's budget for 2015 was reduced by $2,000, Twete stated at Tuesday's meeting. He had proposed a salary of $1,900 per month working four hours each day at the Ramsey County Courthouse in Devils Lake.

"I am trying to be as fair as I can," he pointed out. "What I asked for before, was not out of line in my opinion."

Twete handed out documents showing the salaries of veterans service officers through the state. He noted that he is on the low end of the scale.

County officials responded by notice that a pay raise had been given to Twete in the winter.

"You were given a 14 percent raise a month after you started," Elizabeth Fischer, Ramsey County auditor, stated.

Twete stated that he doesn't think of that decision made by commissioners as a raise or increase of pay. Instead, the officer feels that it would be the salary that the position justifies.

Fischer stated that the county has worked to increase the salaries of employees in all county departments.

"We are trying to catch up, but we can't do it all in one year," she stated.

Commissioner Myrna Heisler commended Twete's efforts in his position noting that he has done a fine job. She, however, noted that such a high raise within a year of an employees hiring isn't a realistic figure for anyone.

"My problem with giving you these raises is not, for one minute, because I don't believe you are worth it," she stated. "It is because I can't justify giving you a 28 percent raise in 9 months when we have employees that have been here 20 years that don’t get a 28 percent increase."

Commissioner Bill Mertens also pointed out that Twete is making a positive impact in his position. He noted that making the veterans service officer position full time would be the most likely way for Twete to see his salary raised again.

"We're going to need to justify this putting this as a full-time position at a full-time wage," Mertens pointed out.

Twete responded by adding, "I suggest you work at the full-time issue faster than you are right now, because at this rate I will not be sitting around Ramsey County."

The discussion was ultimately wrapped up by Commissioner Ed Brown. He pointed out  that any discussion raising the position's salary needed to be done prior to the passing of the budget.

"I appreciate all the work you are doing with the veterans of this county," Brown said. "You are doing an excellent job and this is something that needs to be addressed in the future, but our back is against the wall. The budget is set. It is just really difficult for us to change something like this now."