CHIPPEWA FALLS — It has been a whirlwind week for Randy Scholz.
He wrapped up a 21-year career in Lincoln County on Friday, moved to his new home in Cornell over the weekend and started his duties as Chippewa County administrator on Monday.
Scholz, 49, is eager to dive into his new role, as he met with county workers throughout the day. According to his two-year contract, Scholz will have a pro-rated salary of $120,000 this year and will earn $122,700 in 2019.
“We’re very excited,” Scholz said Monday. “We want to be part of this community. I’ve heard nothing but good things.”
Board member Steve Gerrish, who sits on the Chippewa County Board’s Executive Committee, said he’s impressed with Scholz’s enthusiasm and energy. He said the County Board wanted a fresh start, and Scholz provides that.
“With the past animosity and the lawsuit (over prior county Administrator Frank Pascarella’s dismissal of finance director Dennis Hunt), I think the County Board as a whole is excited to move on,” Gerrish said. “I think this is an opportune time for him to come in and be the new face for the county administrator.”
For the past seven years, Scholz served as Lincoln County administrative coordinator in Merrill. Before that, he was the county’s highway commissioner for seven years. His first seven years there, he was a Highway Department employee.
He said the biggest challenge in his role will always be presenting a balanced budget with a tax levy close to a zero percent increase. He also wants to keep the county moving forward on economic development projects.
Chippewa County has a $10 local vehicle registration fee, commonly dubbed a wheel tax, which is set to expire at the end of 2019. Scholz said Lincoln County started a $20 wheel tax last year, but that one is ongoing, with no sunset clause. He brought the idea forward when he was still highway commissioner, and he endorsed approving it when he was administrative coordinator.
“We needed it to balance our budget. I talked to a lot of people about it,” Scholz said. “No one wants to pay more. They understood why we did it.”
The Lincoln County wheel tax generated roughly $540,000 — similar to what it has generated annually in Chippewa County, he said.
Scholz said that doesn’t necessarily mean he would endorse keeping the wheel tax for Chippewa County.
“I haven’t looked at the budget enough yet to make that analysis,” he said. “I need to look at the full budget, and we’ll see what happens (with funding) in Madison.”
Another issue that will surface is whether to hire full-time bailiffs, as the county has increased spending on overall courthouse security in recent years.
The county doesn’t have any full-time bailiffs for the three courtrooms; Eau Claire County has five sworn deputies as bailiffs — one for each judge. Scholz said that is an issue he will have to talk about more with county staff before commenting on it.
The county also has a “pay for performance” system for employees, which was installed by former Administrator Frank Pascarella. However, several department heads with large staffs say it becomes time-consuming to do all the performance reviews.
“I’ve never done (pay for performance) before,” Scholz said. “I’m getting familiar with it. It’s pretty standard in the private sector. But it’s a County Board decision — they’ll decide if that’s the direction we’re going.”
Scholz was selected from among three finalists for the job.
As Lincoln County administrative coordinator, Scholz oversaw a $50 million budget, including a $12.3 million levy and 450 total employees — which is actually about 100 more workers than in Chippewa County.
Scholz explained that Lincoln County has a nursing home with an $11 million annual budget and about half of the county’s employees work there.
Scholz attended Mount Senario College, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UW-Eau Claire.
He and his wife, Sandra, have three children. Their youngest daughter attends UW-Eau Claire.