I recently published a recap of the 2015 Clay County Salary Commission over on The Northland News.

It’s undeniable this salary commission was far better than the one in 2013. It happened in one setting, and all parties seemingly tried to do what they thought was right. As I wrote the news article I became frustrated with a few things. Writing often has the tendency to really make you think about something. As this audience is used to my Musings on local politics, I thought I’d express some opinion that I think needs to be heard.

The salary commission granted the offices they occupy a COLA for the next time a person occupies that office by a vote of 5-4 with one abstention:

County Clerk Megan Thompson-No

Recorder Katee Porter-No

Presiding Commissioner Jerry Nolte-yes

Commissioner Luann Ridgeway-yes

Commissioner Gene Owen-no

Collector Lydia McEvoy-yes

Treasurer Ted Graves-did not vote, acting as chairperson, only voted in case of tie

Auditor Carol McCaslin-yes

Public Administrator Debbie Gwinn-yes

At first I walked away not too upset about this. My initial thinking was, it’s just a COLA, no big deal.

While some could play semantics with this, this is still a raise. It’s called a cost of living adjustment, and yes the cost of living impacts us all. Having said that, the average salary of an office holder in Clay County is still almost $65,000 and the Commissioners make at least $52,000 each.

Take out the Commissioners salaries and the average goes up to $68,000. The lowest salary excluding the Commissioners is $64,887.

If you can’t live on that, you might want to consider some personal financial coaching. And frankly, I don’t want you running a government office even at the County level.

My wife and I paid off $75,000 in debt by kind-of-sort-of following the Dave Ramsey plan. We made a little more than $64,887 combined, admittedly, but I’ve heard numerous similar success stories on less money.

You can take a look at their salaries and some comparisons with similar counties on this Google Sheet here.

To quote Commissioner Nolte, “I don’t recall in my case, and I suspect none of you had someone point a gun to your head to get you to run for office.”


Office holder pay is a touchy subject because it lies at the confluence of our traditional concepts of representative office, and an ever growing amount of people who get into elected office and never leave. There’s often a disdain for elected officeholders in our culture. Some argue that good pay can attract high quality people to public office. I’ve wavered on this issue myself. To my knowledge, there’s no study on this topic, and it’s hard to say what is accurate.

For a social security recipient who has nothing more than social security, a cost of living adjustment makes a lot of sense.

For someone making a base of at least $64,877, plus paid health benefits, plus access to a public retirement pension, a cost of living adjustment is icing on the cake. It’s a raise, save me the semantics.

When I taught public school, I think my health care and retirement was equivalent to another $15,000 a year. I don’t know for sure, but it’s a fair stretch to say the value of the benefits for our county officials probably are not too far off that number.

Benefits are a form of compensation because they are derived from money. In this case, they’re derived from tax monies confiscated from the citizens of Clay County. And to this Commission’s credit they recently voted to somewhat lower property taxes in the county.

On the other side of the coin, I do remember some concern being expressed about all the money we recently lost due to the DSSF funding (if you’re not familiar with this, you should be). I’ve heard other concerns expressed about possible expenses in the coming year. If you were hesitant about a tax cut, you should be hesitant about a COLA increase.

To give some comparisons to think about, in the state of Missouri, the average annual wage of all occupations is $42,790 (these people don’t often have plush public benefits), the average salary of a teacher is around $50,000, police are at $45,020, and firefighters are at $46,960.

And you really want a comparison to think about?

An active duty soldier (you know those guys you all praised recently when you ceremoniously made Clay County a Purple Heart County) with the classification of private E1 in the US Army has an average starting salary of $18,378.

The last time I checked, any elected office in Clay County is not more psychologically and physically challenging than multiple tours of duty in the Middle East. That’s of course if you remember that we’re still at war. I hope you do because a majority of the officeholders in the room all come from the political party that thought it was a great idea to destabilize the entire region by invading Iraq. Members of the other political party were anti-war up until the point they held the Presidency.

And, by the way, Commissioner Owen actually voted no on the COLA increase.

I’ve followed local politics for years here in the County, Commissioner Nolte is right, I’ve definitely never seen anyone held up at gunpoint to run for office.

I was asked recently if I thought the 2015 salary commission looked professional. I initially responded that it looked okay, and that they were trying to do the right thing.

Professional is a word that has a bit of a connotative meaning, and it’s one of those terms that has as many definitions as people that use it. For me it means did you treat others with respect, did you uphold the ethics of your field, did you follow the Golden Rule, and were you honest.

Professional is defined in the dictionary as:

  • of, relating to, or connected with a profession.
  • engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

Upon further reflection, I’m not sure that professional is the appropriate term for the most recent salary commission. Neither is unprofessional. The more I think about it, elected office should never be viewed as a profession. Traditionally, in America, elected office was intended to be a service role. There’s supposed to be some level of sacrifice involved in that choice to serve.

It’s up to each of us to make a decision about what we think is right. I definitely want competent people in elected office, but I also don’t want people becoming wealthy off of those elected offices. I get that people still need to live and enjoy their lives, but no one’s starving in Clay County government. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that you should be able to live on the salaries currently offered to Clay County elected officials. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that those salaries are good enough to attract sufficiently competent elected officials.

This wasn’t meant to be an attack on the current elected office holders. But, I can say I’m not supportive of the action that was taken. It’s my hope that future salary commissions contemplate those they serve and bear in mind Commissioner Nolte’s words, no one held a gun to your head to be there.

WARNING: There are some mature photos in this post.

So, I wanted to put this on the blog here because I believed it need to be in the digital record. I just didn’t want to bother the readers of The Northland News with it. I’m so worn out with the childishness and immaturity of things in our political process and things I’ve seen here at the County level since 2008. Plus, the readers of The Northland News don’t have the background that many of you do.

I recently reported on the Clay County Taxes being lowered on The Northland News. I was informed by Assistant County Administrator Nicole Brown that they didn’t need to vote, and it looks like that she was inaccurate on that statement. I have not had the time to ask her about the reason for the second vote.

Strangely, the second vote was taken at the Shoal Creek Golf Course this Tuesday night. I was down covering the North Kansas City City Council and wasn’t able to make it to the impromptu meeting. Here’s a link to the new levies.

It certainly doesn’t look good, but I’m holding out judgement until I find out why.

I got an email that was sent through our contact form on The Northland News yesterday from “J Snyder.” I should have been more aware because looking at the email now it was not a full name. The email address hopesfuture@mail.com seemed awkward as well.


HopesFuture email 1


From: J Snyder <hopesfuture@mail.com>
Subject: Clay County Commission – Tax Levy

Message Body:
Mr Palmer,
You generally report on the County Commission’s meetings, I was wondering if you had a report from their special session to reset the tax levy? I believe it occurred last night (10/20/15) in Shoal Creek.
Seems like they were trying to sneak a meeting in with no one noticing. Did anyone even attend?

So, thinking it was a legitimate note, I responded. Then the response came this morning from none other than… Rusty Wallace.

Defenses went up immediately… Rusty Wallace… Really???

Here’s my email response and then “Rusty’s” response.

HopesFuture email 2



I was aware of the meeting. I wasn’t able to attend it because I was at the NKC Council and was not able to have anyone else attend for me. Based upon the agenda they just approved the levy, but I’m going to be asking some questions about the meeting at the next Commission meeting because I was told that they didn’t need to vote on it. Thanks for the note!


Mr Palmer,
Thank you for your response. I wish I were able to attend the meeting last night too.
I believe that last night’s meeting is contradictory with proper procedure for scheduling Special Sessions. I’m sure I read somewhere that 4 or 5 days notice is required, 24 hours notice only applies to event attendance notification. If the commission somehow voted to suspend the rules in order to host this Special Session I suppose they could pull it off but even that seems a stretch?!
I’d be interested to know the language they used to adopt this levy. The first levy they passed was done so resolutely, in consideration of the county’s solvency that I was interested to know how they could accept a lesser percentage. Didn’t they do the math? Don’t they know how money they need? Are we losing money with the lower levy or did they do the math poorly the first time around? Does their math now match what the governor’s office has mandated for them to collect?
I find these all to be very interesting questions.
Thank you for listening to my ramblings.
J Snyder

A lot of people don’t realize this, but if you create a Facebook account with an email that becomes a searchable item on Facebook. Try it sometime, type in an email in the top search bar and see what happens. So, everyone meet our friend Rusty Wallace. Note, I did edit out a mutual friend of “Rusty’s.” Many times people indiscriminately friend on Facebook. I don’t want the individual caught up in this. It’s not fair to him.

Rusty Wallace 1

Now this is where this takes a turn into crazy land. As you can see above, the email properly links this account to the email given. Rusty, or whoever Rusty is, apparently has created a fake Facebook profile for two reasons. 1) Not being who they are. 2) Soft-core pornography.

Rusty Wallace 2

Rusty Wallace 3

I had to laugh at this one. Who does Rusty follow? Two models and me. In case the local media news source thing doesn’t work out maybe I have a modeling career to consider?

Rusty Wallace 4

Update 10/23/15:

Say it ain’t so, Rusty! You had such love, such respect, such profound affinity for the ladies whatever will they do without you Liking their page.

Rusty Wallace 5

And…and…you no longer follow my updates! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As a note, I intentionally never responded to his last email to see what would happen and I got this around lunch today.

HopesFuture email 3

No, I had no intention of embarrassing you “Rusty.” I simply intended to expose into the record someone pretending to be someone they weren’t. I swear I’ve seen behavior like this somewhere before… Huh… Probably no connection.

Farewell, Rusty! Best of luck as you slither off into the “anonymity” of the Internet.

As I was writing my piece on the Socialist Democrat debate last night, it occurred to me that I failed to post links to my first two Republican debate Musings over on The Northland News. There are interactive polls on all three of these posts:

The first 2015 GOP Debate

GOP Debate, Part Deux

The first Democrat debate  

Here’s the short version:

Trump-An insult to anyone that believes in limited Madisonian government. A good barometer of determining the percentage of ignorant people that vote Republican.

Carson-I used to be really excited about Carson, but reality has caught up to me. Incredibly nice man, a true American success story, not a President, probably the next Surgeon General if a Republican is elected.

Rubio-Meh… Not real excited about him, but he’s tolerable and I could vote for him if he’s a last man standing kind of thing.

Fiorina-She’s not what you think she is. Brilliant marketer, terrible CEO, President that could start WWIII. I don’t know if I can vote for her in the general.

Bush-I didn’t vote for his brother and I’m sure as heck not going to vote for this clown. Uninspiring train wreck of a candidate that couldn’t even beat Hillary. Amazing that much money could be invested in someone like him.

Cruz-A lot to like, worried about his foreign policy, definitely think the Supreme Court is salvaged from the wreckage that it’s currently in under a Cruz presidency. I don’t know if he can win the general, though. He’s my number two right now.

Paul-Realistically the base of the Republican party won’t see how good Rand Paul is. I hope he stays in because I think there’s about 40-50% up for grabs if Trump and Carson drop. If the Missouri primary was today, he’s the one I’m voting for.

All the other Republicans-Please go away with the exception of Jindal.

Democrats-Hillary is leading the pack and is probably the candidate right now. Crazy Uncle Joe will be interesting to watch. Hillary is a toxic nominee for the DNC. People don’t like her, and despite the fact that she made sure we know she’s a woman last night, that’s not enough to win the Presidency (at least I hope).

So, what do you think so far? Who is your favorite candidate? Why? How do you think this election is going to shake out?