Wadena Commissioners: Human Services Director resigns, elected officials get large salary increases

by Trinity Gruenberg


The Wadena County Commissioners held their regular meeting on December 17.

Final Levy and Budget

Auditor/Treasurer Heather Olson sent out budgets with minor changes that didn’t alter the levy. It remains at 2.81 percent. The final levy is $9,323,053. Commissioner Kangas would like to see the numbers on contracts that he has been asking for all year. The final levy budget was approved with Kangas opposed.

Hiring Process for New Human Services Director

County Coordinator/Engineer Ryan Odden received and accepted the resignation of Human Services Director Tanya Leskey effective December 27.

He would like to start the hiring process and update the job description, adding a typical hiring process is 90 days. Commissioners approved.

He has been asked if they are looking at human service and public health to combine. Odden would like to establish a committee with staff from both and commissioners to look at pros and cons and what that structure would look like. Approved the committee of Commissioners Hofer and Stearns, Odden, Cindy Pederson, Erica Keppers, Amie Gendron and Cheri Dodds.

Commissioner Bill Stearns added that wording for the advertisement to include a preference be given to candidates with extensive child protection experience. County Attorney Kyra Ladd said they have to decide if it is a classified or unclassified position. If it’s unclassified it is not part of the merit system. They approved to make the position an unclassified, non-merit, at will position.

2020 Salaries

The elected and appointed officials salaries were not adjusted in 2019 along with the other county employees. None of these officials get vacation time, sick time, comp time or a personal day which are standard benefits that employees receive.

The market study by DDA showed what the officials were making in Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Morrison, Otter Tail and Todd counties and the average salary for all.

A different wage schedule for the county attorney and assistant county attorneys was presented based on trial judge salaries that was formulated by Otter Tail County. The attorneys salary would be a percentage of the trial judge. The proposal was county attorney 100 percent, county attorney II 80 percent and county attorney I 65 percent.

Commissioner Chuck Horsager explained the current system isn’t near what the market is and they are having a difficult time hiring and retaining attorneys. . . .

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