Supervisors pass elderly nutrition cooks pay scale increase

Van Manen says it shows county is willing to invest in her department

After being tabled for a week, elderly nutrition’s pay scale increases for its cooks were finally approved during the Dec. 28 board of supervisors meeting.

Jasper County Human Resources Director Dennis Simon once again presented a memorandum of understanding for the pay scale increase, which will be effective Jan. 3, 2022. The memorandum passed with a 2-1 vote, with Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma voting against it. Jasper County Elderly Nutrition Director Kelli Van Manen was pleased with the turnout.

“I’m grateful that the memorandum passed by a majority,” Van Manen said. “The cook’s pay is still on the low end, but I’m thankful for the raises. And it shows that the county values us.”

The push to increase cooks’ wages began Dec. 1 when the board heard from Van Manen and Simon regarding difficulties finding qualified full-time cooks while only offering to pay $13 an hour.

During that meeting, Van Manen and Simon requested the two cooks employed by nutrition be moved to higher pay scales in order to stay competitive when hiring. Currently, Van Manen wants to hire a secondary cook. Plus, her head cook will be retiring after 24 years sometime in 2022.

Without raising wages Van Manen may struggle to fill the two positions.

“My head cook is leaving me soon, so I’m happy that she will get the raise before she retires,” Van Manen said. “Raising wages really shows that the county is willing to invest in us, and in programs that are focused on helping residents directly.”

The purposed pay scales would elevate the position of head cook and put it on the same pay scale as a courthouse clerk, while the second cook wages would be raised and put on the same pay scale as a custodian.

With the pay scales approved, both positions receive an almost $3 raise from what they currently make hourly. From the start, supervisors Doug Cupples and Denny Carpenter have supported Van Manen’s request.

“The most important goal for elderly nutrition is to keep the food and service at the same level of quality that we’ve always had or to raise it. If raising wages is what we have to do, it’s what we have to do,” Cupples said.

But not every supervisor was on board with the pay raises. Talsma was the sole voice of dissent opposing the increases.

“If we give these cooks a raise what’s to stop others from wanting one as well? This could easily turn into a slippery slope,” Talsma said.

At the end of the Dec. 14 meeting, the supervisors passed the pay scale increases 2-1, with Talsma voting against.

A memorandum of understanding was then introduced during the supervisor’s Dec. 20 meeting, but the item was tabled due to Carpenter not being present and Talsma making it known he would not vote in the memorandum’s favor. If it had not been tabled, it would have failed to pass with a 1-1 vote.

Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-4687 ext. 6531 or

Abby Knipfel

Abby "Adler" Knipfel

Journalist at Newton Daily News. Currently covering Jasper County and writing passionate opinion pieces. They/Them