County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is asking for an $8,000 raise as the Pima County Board of Supervisors decides next week whether to renew his employment contract.
The three Democrats on the five-member board have indicated they are likely to extend his new contract, each praising Huckelberry’s successes as the county’s top non-elected official.
Huckelberry’s current contract expires Tuesday, Jan. 3.
Huckelberry has an annual base salary of about $280,000, and he is requesting an increase to $288,000. With other financial benefits that are part of his contract, his total compensation is about $326,865, according to county records.
The contract being considered would be for four years and includes provisions for typical benefits such as health insurance, time off, severance and contributions to his retirement plan. Huckelberry also is asking that he be allowed to decline the use of a county-owned vehicle for work and instead receive a $550 monthly car allowance.
Huckelberry has been at the center of some public battles over the years as he carries out the will of the elected supervisors.
A short list includes issues with developers and environmentalists, the cities of Marana and Tucson, the Legislature and even then-Gov. Jan Brewer, who approved a “forensic audit” in 2012 of the county’s 1997, 2004 and 2006 general obligation bonds program.
Huckelberry also recently successfully challenged the state when it tried to force the county to make up some payments to local taxing districts that the state normally covered — which saved the county several million dollars. He also has been instrumental in helping to bring new businesses to the county, including a possible Monsanto greenhouse on the northwest side and space companies World View and Vector Space Systems to property near the airport.
The county’s deal with World View has led to a lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute, which claims the county has violated the state’s gift-clause constitutional provisions.
Newly elected Supervisor Steve Christy, a Republican, says he plans on keeping his campaign pledge to vote against renewing Huckleberry’s contract. Christy will be sworn in on the board at Tuesday’s meeting.
If Christy can convince a board majority to vote against the contract, he says he would back a temporary contract while the county conducts a nationwide search for a new administrator.
The details of the contract, including the raise, are a moot point to Christy; he says he will always vote against it.
Additionally, Christy says the process to review Huckelberry’s contract is unusual when compared to his experiences in the private sector. As a businessman, Christy said he had weeks or longer to formally review his employees.
Details of Huckelberry’s contract went public Wednesday, and Christy said he has less than a week to make a decision.
Furthermore, the staff report does not contain a review of Huckleberry’s goal-setting and metrics since his contract was last renewed in 2013.
Supervisor Ally Miller, a Republican, was not available for comment.
Supervisor Richard Elías, a Democrat, says Huckelberry has long been an asset to the community and he plans on approving the contract. The raise, he said, is fairly insignificant. “It is a pretty small raise,” Elías said.
Elías says while Huckelberry’s salary is significant, county residents deserve a high functioning professional with decades of institutional knowledge.
Supervisor Ramón Valadez stopped short of saying how he’d vote regarding Huckelberry’s contract but offered high praise of the administrator.
He focused almost exclusively on recent accomplishments regarding attracting new businesses here, noting the county was ranked third in the country for economic development by the Wall Street Journal.
Valadez added that if several new projects underway come to fruition in the next six months, another 2,000 jobs could be created in the county.
Supervisor Sharon Bronson also didn’t answer directly whether she’d renew his contract, but she said she was leaning toward giving Huckelberry another four years, noting his good job performance during difficult economic times.