Next week, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will discuss renewing County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s contract and whether or not they will grant him the $13,000 raise he’s asked for.
The board was slated to vote on the top administrator’s contract at its first meeting of the year last week, but voted to delay the discussion to a private executive meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Serving as county administrator since 1993, Huckelberry oversees more than 7,300 employees and operates under the direction of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.
He is one of the region’s most powerful officials. During his tenure, the county has implemented the award-winning Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, stabilized and improved the county’s southside hospital by leasing it to Banner Health and invested in numerous economic-development initiatives, such as a realignment of roadways near Raytheon that helped lay the groundwork for the region’s largest employer to expand. The interlinking riverside park system he oversaw even bears his name, the Chuck Huckelberry Loop.
But Huckelberry’s critics blame him for everything from poverty rates to the county’s potholes. More recently, they have complained that he has damaged the business community by pushing a COVID-related curfew, mask mandate and other business restrictions.
Huckelberry’s current contract, renewed in January 2017, entitles him to an annual base salary of $302,000. Now, Huckelberry’s asking for a salary of $315,000 per year and four more years as county administrator.
If approved, the 4.3% raise and Huckelberry’s position would remain in effect until Jan. 7, 2025. For the next two weeks, he remains county supervisor through an extension of his contract approved in 2017.
Last week, three new officials attended the meeting for their first time as newly elected supervisors, including Rex Scott of District 1, Matt Heinz of District 2 and Adelita Grijalva of District 5. The three are replacing former supervisors Ally Miller, Ramón Valadez and Betty Villegas.
Grijalva posed the motion to table the contract’s discussion for two weeks. The supervisors approved the motion in a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Steve Christy and Matt Heinz opposing.
At the meeting, Christy proposed a motion to not renew Huckelberry’s contract at all, while Heinz proposed extending the contract for 12 months with no pay raise. Both motions failed.
Christy expressed concern about discussing the county administrator’s contract privately, and said, “It should be discussed in front of the public at the board meeting and not behind closed doors.”
Grijalva responded that as one of three new board members, she needs time to consult with legal experts on the merits of the contract.
“The intent really is to talk about the contract and the legal terms that we can have conversations about...that’s pretty standard to talk about personnel issues. It’s not the intent to be behind closed doors or deceptive in any way, it really is just to get clarification,” Grijalva said. “For me, as a brand new board member, there’s aspects of the contract that I’m not sure are legal requirements or practice, and so I’d like to have the opportunity to have those questions answered by the legal counsel.”
The board of supervisors will discuss renewing Huckelberry’s contract and its contents in two weeks. In addition to a pay raise, the county administrator’s proposed contract also includes:
• Unrestricted access to a county vehicle or a monthly vehicle allowance of $550 per month.
• Health, medical and dental insurance
• One week of paid sick leave
• One week of paid vacation time
• $26,000 in state retirement funds
•$15,000 in supplemental retirement funds
• $8,200 in health savings account contribution