Mayoral pay bump possible
Summerville Town Council’s planning workshop was going swimmingly Friday until the unmentionable was mentioned: the mayor’s pay.
Suddenly the harmonious discussion of infrastructure, annexation, taxes and public safety broke down, with Councilmen Aaron Brown and Terry Jenkins arguing over each other as to whether giving the mayor more money would alter the structure of town government – and tilt the balance of power.
“It seems to me we’re sort of sliding in backwards to a strong mayor situation,” said Brown, who was most vocally opposed to a change.
By ordinance, Summerville mayors earn $15,000 and council members earn $7,500. The positions are presumed to be part-time, and the town legally operates under the council form of government.
In reality, the town for years operated under a de facto council-manager form. When Mayor Bill Collins ran for office in 2011, he promised that, as a retiree, he would be able to devote full-time hours to the position.
Administrator Dennis Pieper had resigned shortly before the election, so the new council decided to grant the new mayor extra powers – by resolution only – and save the money it would have spent on salary and benefits for a new administrator.
Now, a year and a half into the arrangement, some council members think the mayor deserves more money in consideration of the time he puts in.
Councilman Walter Bailey, who raised the issue, said Collins should be adequately compensated for the 40-plus hours he works each week.
Council didn’t discuss numbers Friday; it will get into specifics during executive session at an upcoming meeting.
Councilman Bill McIntosh said the current arrangement is great for council and great for the town, but not sustainable for the mayor.
“What we’ve got now works for everybody. But it wouldn’t work for me if I were in his shoes,” he said.
Brown, however, said Collins accepted the position knowing the salary. Brown said when he voted to give Collins more authority, he was voting to help things run more smoothly, not to make Collins an administrator. Collins wasn’t given full administrative duties, he said.
Jenkins argued that raising the mayor’s salary wouldn’t be making him a strong mayor, and Bailey said the discussion of form of government was separate from the discussion of whether to offer Collins more money.
Councilman Bob Jackson, however, said he doesn’t support a strong-mayor system because he likes “a lot of eyes on everything,” and he didn’t appear to support Bailey’s proposal.
“If we’re going to spend the money, I’d prefer we go out and look for an administrator,” he said.
Any additional money would be contingent on Collins -- or a future mayor -- working full-time.
Council would also have to agree to give each mayor the additional authority.
Bailey acknowledged after the meeting that the idea wasn’t fully fleshed out and involved some uncertainty for future administrations.
The town attorney will look at the matter and report to council.