Most San Benito County supervisors expressed support for changing the elected positions from part time to full time in Tuesday’s meeting and potentially conducting a study to increase compensation.
Supervisors had the discussion Tuesday at the request of Board Chairman Mark Medina.
“It is a full-time job,” Medina said Tuesday. “It does take a lot out of you. I think in order to be successful, you need to focus on one thing, and that’s the county.”
Medina said he supported the concept of designating the five elected supervisor roles as full time and restricting the elected leaders from carrying on full-time employment elsewhere. That might complicate things a bit since three current supervisors own businesses, although Supervisor Anthony Botelho – one of those three and an orchardist – announced he won’t seek reelection in 2020.
In the small, rural county, being a county supervisor has always been considered a part-time role. But the county is growing, while county board members often spend a lot of time on meetings, research and events. There was also talk Tuesday about neighboring counties, albeit much larger communities, where county supervisors are designed as full time and paid as such.
San Benito County supervisors are paid just under $50,000 annually plus benefits.
“San Benito County is not the San Benito County I grew up in anymore,” Gillio said. “We have a different population. We have a different economic engine.”
An array of uncertainties remain before a potential change in classification before new supervisors take office in January 2021 following next year’s election. One big question put out there Tuesday is whether to initiate term limits, which would require a vote of the people.
Gillio said he wouldn’t want the classification change without installing term limits.
“I think that’s an important part of this,” he said.
In a somewhat uncomfortable moment, Gillio also expressed how he doesn’t want the job to carry a sense of permanency. He made his comment with two supervisors next to him, Botelho and Jaime De La Cruz, who are on their fourth terms in office.
“You don’t want somebody who’s kind of parked in here,” Gillio said, adding how he wasn’t trying to offend anyone.
Botelho said after his nearly 15 years in office while juggling his business duties, the supervisor role is not for someone who’s gainfully employed.
“I don’t know if it’s a job for somebody that owns their business,” he said. “It does take a tremendous amount of time.”
He went on: “This job is perfect for a retired person, and I don’t know if you want retired people on here.”
De La Cruz commented how he’s “very fortunate” to have “the boss I have today” because he lets the supervisor go to his county meetings and understands his position.
“He knows for me, supervisor is No. 1 and the job I have is No. 2,” De La Cruz said.
Supervisor Peter Hernandez said the issue confused him. He said he didn’t lie to himself when he ran for office last year that this was a part-time role.
“If you think of it as a part-time job, then I don’t know what world you’re living in,” Hernandez said. “If it’s a matter of pay, you have to ask yourself, is it about a job or is it about public service?”
Several residents also spoke on the matter.
County employee Kathy Postigo said if the roles become full time, then supervisors shouldn’t have other jobs. She also said supervisors, if they go to full time, shouldn’t spend that time meeting one on one with department heads because that’s the county administration officer’s job. She then alluded to an upcoming salary study to review employee compensation.
“Any change in salary shouldn’t be done until after county employees go through a salary survey,” she said.
Supervisors agreed by consensus to give direction to the CAO to review the matter after the salary study happens for other county employees later this year.