Peter Sheff, the newly elected Waldo County treasurer, didn’t run for the position because of the money.
Nevertheless, the Republican from Morrill said Friday that it rankled him to learn that shortly after he won the contested race, the Waldo County commissioners decided to lower the annual pay from $10,000 to $2,500. He believes they did so in retaliation because he was not their first choice for the position.
Sheff beat Democrat Bill Sneed of Prospect by just 163 votes.
“It certainly is unethical,” Sheff, who also serves as the pastor of Abundant Grace Ministries in Morrill, said. “I think it’s politics of the worst kind. My recommendation to the county commission was that maybe they could consider doing the same to their paycheck.”
But that’s not what happened, maintains Waldo County Commissioner Betty Johnson. She said outgoing county treasurer David Parkman, who has served in that position for 16 years, worked his way up to earning $10,000 in annual compensation. He did not start there, she said.
“No matter who won, we would have had to look at the starting pay and maybe consider any experience. That’s what you do when you hire people,” she said. “I don’t understand why [Sheff] can’t understand that. He can’t come in as an experienced person when he’s not and think that his salary is going to be the same as somebody who has been there for 16 years.”
But that doesn’t satisfy Sheff, who said he ran for the position as a voice of fiscal conservatism and to work to find creative ways to fund schools while lowering property taxes. He said he realizes the county treasurer primarily oversees the county’s expenditures and income and has responsibilities that include attending meetings and reporting to the commissioners about the percentage of the county budget that has been spent to date.
Still, Sheff, who said he and his wife recently had to sell their large house in Morrill and move into a smaller one because they couldn’t afford to pay their property taxes, isn’t daunted by the limitations of the treasurer’s role.
“Speaking as an individual, you’re one lone voice. But speaking as the treasurer, I think you have greater influence,” he said. “When your property taxes match your mortgage payment, that’s not right. I will be a very loud voice in Augusta to promote that.”
Johnson, though, said the job of the treasurer has evolved over the years and right now is more of a figurehead and advisory position than anything else.
“Mr. Sheff does not know what the job entails,” she said. “I hope that he will understand and accept the fact that he can’t do all the things he thought he could do. He works with us. It’s a four-year term. It’s a long time to start out on the wrong foot. I’m hoping that this also will quiet down. It’s not a very good way to start out your term, which is too bad. It’s too bad that he felt he had to go to the newspapers and not to us.”
But the new treasurer is undaunted. He said he wanted the public to know about the financial situation and said that if the compensation remains set at $2,500 he will likely donate it to Waldo County fire departments as a statement.
“That hardly pays for gas to go to the meetings,” he said, adding that regardless of what he described as “political shenanigans” he will continue to be treasurer anyway. “It’s not going to stop me from being a voice to lower our property taxes, that’s for sure. I’ll just continue to be a lone voice in the wilderness, talking about getting our taxes under control.”