Board raises its pay after 10-year freeze
After 10 years without a hike in pay, Washington County commissioners on Tuesday voted themselves a salary increase of nearly 31 percent, bringing them closer in line with comparable county boards in the metro area.
Commissioners in 2019 will be paid $69,000, a jump of more than $16,000 from their existing salary of $52,713. That puts them closer to Anoka, Carver and Scott counties, which pay their commissioners in the $60,000 to $70,000 range, but still well behind Hennepin, Ramsey and Dakota counties, where board salaries range from $80,000 to more than $110,000.
Washington County commissioners "have not raised their salaries since 2009, even when the economy started recovering," said County Administrator Molly O'Rourke. In the years since, the board instead boosted staff salaries and restored program cuts, she said.
Fire Chief Esbensen to step down Friday
Fire Chief George Esbensen will end his 32-year career with the Eden Prairie Fire Department on Friday.
Since Esbensen started with the city in 1986, the number of firefighters has doubled to more than 100. In 2002, he became Eden Prairie's first full-time fire chief.
Everything about firefighting has changed during his time on the job, from the equipment to firefighting techniques, said Esbensen. "What hasn't changed is the type of person who steps up to be a firefighter," he said.
Esbensen is president of the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE), a nonprofit he began to address mental health, cancer and heart disease in the fire service. He plans to continue that work.
Shelton retiring as county administrator
Gary Shelton, longtime Scott County administrator, will retire Dec. 31 after nearly a decade in the job. Deputy County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion will assume Shelton's job on Jan. 1.
"I am probably the most proud of ... the fiscal condition of the county today, as opposed to when I became administrator in 2009 during the recession," he said.
Shelton joined the county in 1978, when he worked in the jail for the Sheriff's Office. After 20 years, he became jail administrator and was then hired as the county's IT manager. He was deputy county administrator for a decade before becoming county administrator, a job he held for nearly 10 years.
New group takes over vets' crisis housing
Haven for Heroes, a new community-based group of veterans, community leaders and volunteers, this month took over a veterans program at a historic riverfront property in Anoka.
For more than a year, volunteers have renovated three century-old structures near the Rum River into housing for veterans in crisis. The first veterans moved in last December.
Eagle's Healing Nest, a nonprofit that provides housing to veterans in renovated historic buildings in Sauk Centre, Minn., had been running a similar program at the Anoka site. But the organization recently left Anoka to focus on its Sauk Centre operations, said state Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, a key supporter of the project.