Richland County appoints new clerk following sudden resignation of Vlasak

Nicole Aimone, Editor-in-Chief

The Richland County board voted to appoint former deputy clerk Derek Kalish as County clerk, and approved an overall decrease to the position’s salary at its April 20 meeting.

Following the sudden resignation of current County Clerk Victor Vlasak earlier this month, the board scrambled to appoint someone prior to April 30, Vlasak’s last day in office. Kalish will finish out the 2021-2024 term to which Vlasak was re-elected in November 2020.

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“I would like to thank all of those who put their name in for the position, it’s not easy and I do appreciate it,” said County Board Chairman, Marty Brewer of Richland Center. “This was put together pretty quickly, we didn’t have a lot of time to react, but we sure as heck need a clerk.”

While the position of Clerk is typically elected, due to Vlasak’s resignation, the board is given the power to appoint a replacement through state statute. The county board could also choose to appoint someone intermily, and order a special election to elect the permanent replacement for the remaining term. However, Interim Corporation Counsel Julie Dadoun recommended the board not take that route, as there is no upcoming election cycle that would create additional cost to the county.

“I am eager to see Derek Kalish return to service for the residents of Richland County as our future County Clerk. As the former Deputy County Clerk, he will hit the ground running with his knowledge of elections, record keeping, and state requirements,” said Supervisor and Finance Committee
Chair, Shaun Murphy-Lopez, of Hillsboro. “I look forward to seeing how he modernizes the office and creates partnerships with the County Board and other elected officials.”

The board’s vote to appoint Kalish was unanimous.

The current salary for the County Clerk position is approximately $78,000, and is set to receive a steady increase through the remainder of the 2021-2024 term, which will earn Kalish approximately $83,000 annually in three years time. However, the county board unanimously voted at the April 20 meeting to give a hefty, overall decrease to the county clerk’s salary—eventually.

Due to state statute, a county board is prohibited from adjusting the salary of elected officials mid term, in this case the 2021-24 term Kalish will be finishing out, but can adjust salary for future terms. The statue also prohibits the county from determining salary for elected officials based on experience.

Salary for the County Clerk’s 2025 term will drop by approximately $15,000, to about $68,000. Murphy-Lopez and the finance committee recommended this decrease for board approval in an effort to equalize salary across elected officials such as the register of deeds and the treasurer, whose salaries fall into the $60,000 to $68,000 range.

“I’m thankful to the constituent who raised the issue of reducing our County Clerk’s salary. My research revealed we have the highest paid County Clerk out of any peer county in the state,” said Murphy-Lopez.

To off set the upcoming swift drop in salary, candidates were informed the $15,000 would be considered transitional pay they would receive until 2025, as the county continues it’s transition to a county administrator.

In 2020, the county separated the clerk position from an administrative coordinator position and hired a county administrator. Throughout the remainder of the 2021-24 term, the clerk will remain responsible for a few administrator duties, while receiving the pay increases to $83,000. In the next term, the clerk will see a salary decrease and will no longer be performing administration duties, only the duties outlined in statute for clerks.

Other candidates considered for the clerk position include: Crystal Adams, Cheryl Dull, Jeffery Harrison, Roseanna Knower, Samantha Kern and Stacy Kliest, the current county Clerk of Courts.

Kalish will officially begin in the position in May, following Vlasak’s last day in office on April 30.