CRAVEN COUNTY -

Craven County Commissioners voted Tuesday to set the pay level for the possibility of a new sheriff.

The pay would be more than $20,000 below what current-Sheriff Jerry Monette earns.

Commissioners voted to set the starting pay for the elected sheriff at $71,890.

The amount would only apply to a newly-elected sheriff; Monette, per state law, could not have his pay cut, he said.

Monette, in his fifth term as sheriff, earns $94,061 per year, records show.

If the new sheriff earns the $71,890, his pay will be nearly 25-percent less than the department’s chief deputy, Lee Riggs.

Four people, including incumbent Sheriff Jerry Monette, have told NewsChannel 12 that they will run for sheriff in the May election.

Chip Hughes, Ernest Thomas, and Eric Smith are the other candidates.

Commissioners will set the winner’s salary based on that person’s qualifications, according to Board Chair Tom Mark.

It would be permissible for the department’s chief deputy to earn more than the sheriff himself, Mark said.

Compared to the pay of other local sheriffs, Monette's pay lands in the middle, a record check shows.

Longtime Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown earns $111,771.

First-term Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks earns $84,304.

The second-term sheriff in Carteret County, Asa Buck III, earns $77,386.

Another top cop in Craven County, New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers Jr. earns $130,639.