CRYSTAL LAKE – The amount elected officials in McHenry County earn varies, with some earning up to $20,000 as mayor and others working on a volunteer basis.
Elected officials’ salaries were compiled by the McHenry County Council of Governments and range from Huntley Village President Charles Sass earning $20,000 to Marengo Mayor John Koziol earning $12,000 and Bull Valley’s Village President Emily Berendt making nothing.
Trustees or council members’ salaries do not differ as much, ranging from $6,000 in Algonquin to $4,200 in McHenry and $2,400 in Crystal Lake, according to data.
It is hard to quantify how much time is spent each week on village duties, officials said. McHenry City Administrator Derik Morefield said trustees are on duty 24/7 because they always are engaged with the public.
Even going to the grocery store can spur discussions with residents.
Duties involve reading City Council documents, meeting agendas and packets and participating in meetings with staff, Morefield said.
Algonquin Village President John Schmitt, who earns one of the highest salaries and leads the second-most populous McHenry County municipality, said if the hours put into the village were divided by his salary, he wouldn’t make minimum wage.
“There isn’t really an hour of the day that I’m not doing something,” Schmitt said. “During the summer, I drive a convertible, and I’m even having conversations with residents at stoplights, which is great.”
Schmitt said the village reviews salaries every two years, and the rates haven’t been changed since 1996.
“We take enough abuse and heat without increasing our salary by 10 percent, which is just pocket change,” Schmitt said. “It isn’t worth it.”
Salaries for local municipalities typically are reviewed once a year, and normally around election cycles, said Chalen Daigle, executive director of the McHenry County Council of Governments.
“Villages want to make sure compensation is aligned with other areas of the same size, but frankly, half the communities of smaller size don’t get paid anything,” Daigle said.
Berendt said everything comes from out of her pocket, such as a business dinner with other officials. She spends about 20 to 25 hours a week completing tasks, such as measuring the course of an upcoming 5K run Friday morning. She earns nothing serving the village of Bull Valley, which has a population of 1,097.
“It’s hard to quantify how much time, because as a volunteer, you give what you can,” Berendt said. “It would be easier [to get people to join the Village Board] if there was some compensation, but it’s never been that way with the village. Volunteering is a core value for us.”
Ringwood Village President Rick Mack said he has a full-time job for Metra and a long commute, so he spends his hours traveling going over village documents, and he works evenings and weekends.
Mack has been president for 23 years in Ringwood, which has a population of 818, and he never has earned a salary.
“It’s a labor of love,” Mack said. “We are a small town with very limited resources, and we know if we take a salary, it really cuts into the dollars we can reinvest into the community.”
Woodstock City Council member Mike Turner said he puts in about 20 to 30 hours in a given month, and he doesn’t think there is a need to make any changes to the salary he’s been given since 2005.
“I don’t do it for the money, and I think the amount we are paid is low, given the time we [give] and the importance of the job,” Turner said. “But there is no tolerance with the public to be giving raises to politicians, and I understand why they think that way.”