Milwaukee County Supervisors Consider Impact of Shifting to Part-Time

Dec 1, 2015

We will soon learn how many people are interested in serving on the Milwaukee County Board – now that it’s becoming a part-time job. Candidates can begin circulating nomination papers today, Dec. 1.

The state has imposed structural changes on the board. The one that will kick in, following April’s election, is that the job of supervisor will become half-time – in terms of salary and benefits.

Right now, Milwaukee County Board members serve four-year terms and earn about $50,000 per year. After April’s elections, terms will be two-years, the salary will be cut in half – and supervisors will no longer receive health and pension benefits. The changes caused incumbent Deanna Alexander to re-evaluate the job.

“After carefully thinking about why I came into public office and what my job duties were, I decided that the best answer was to go with exactly whatever the citizens of my district opted for,” Alexander says.

County residents voted to downsize the board. Yet Alexander says she plans to seek a second term, even though she may need a second job to supplement her income. She’s an accountant by trade. Another supervisor who plans to run again is Michael Mayo, the county’s longest-serving board member – with more than 20 years, on the job.

“I have some unfinished business I want to take care of,” Mayo says.

Mayo describes much of that unfinished business, as making sure mass transit is sound. He’s been chairman of the transportation committee. What Mayo says could complicate matters is whether the board moves its meetings to night-time or keeps them during the day; a committee is deciding. Mayo says he’d need a second job.

“I still have a household, I still have bills that I have to pay,” Mayo says.

Mayo says he used to be an insurance agent, and he’s been searching the want ads for a job in the field. As for health benefits, he’s on the county plan but would switch to his wife’s.

Another veteran of the board, Supervisor Jim Luigi Schmitt, says he too, has decided to give it another go – and would supplement his salary with part time jobs.

“I coach a couple sports in spring and fall and I teach every year. I’m teaching a night class right now at Upper Iowa University. It’s an American government course,” Schmitt says.

While Schmitt is not happy the board is virtually being reduced to part-time, he thinks he could still be effective.

“I think they need some experience, some stability. I’ve been heavily involved. I’m co-chair of Finance, so I can bring some history, some veteran leadership,” Schmitt says.

“I think it’s time to pass the torch to others, younger people."  That’s Supervisor Gerry Broderick. He’s served on the board since 2002 but is leaving, in part, because of its reduced status. Broderick says the board already has its hands full with overseeing the county budget and managing several departments such as parks and transit.

“With all the services that are provided by the county, with all the details that need to be tended to on a daily basis, to expect someone who’s working another job to be able to do a dedicated and reasonable job of monitoring the expenditures being made on behalf of the taxpayers I think is illusory to say the best,” Broderick says.

Broderick and the others we spoke with predict the County Board’s spring elections will draw many candidates who are retired, or work professional jobs, such as doctors or lawyers.