The Care and Feeding of Mayors
08/28/15 - Editorial byRenee Wilkins
The Charter Review Committee has tried for months to answer the one question on all our minds – “What does a full-time weak mayor do?” The term “full-time mayor” leads to an expectation of strength and leadership, yet the conundrum is that a weak mayor is a glorified mascot with no legally substantial power or responsibility. He’s an ambassador.
The merry-go-round of expecting a full-time mayor and full-time pay sends us back around to identifying responsibilities that would justify doubling or tripling mayoral pay as proposed. I’m glad none of the committee or governing body members suffered an aneurysm wracking their brains so hard trying to find something for the mayor to do. Nevertheless, they did come up with a couple of cutting edge ideas:
Provide leadership in the promotion and marketing of Rio Rancho to large and small businesses to achieve growth in products and services available to residents and growth in tax and revenues;
Participate with and provide input to the City Manager in preparation of the city’s budget for the mayor to perform the duties…
These are things our mayors have always (more or less) done but were never defined. The fourth floor at city hall is becoming top-heavy. With a city manager, an asst. city manager, a deputy city manager, business liaison, a mayor and more, what tangible change is there in the job description to warrant such an increase in pay? Should we be so determined to find a way to justify the desired starting point of $75k? After their initial idea to base the pay on a percentage of department head pay failed, another go-round compared mayoral pay to Las Cruces and Santa Fe. But Santa Fe is a hybrid system, with more mayoral responsibility. The latest recommendation before the Governing Body is to base it on the Rio Rancho median household income, which just happens to be $73,998/year. All of these roads lead to the magic $75k salary.
One committee member asked the committee to consider it from a different angle by comparing the percent of mayoral salaries to the corresponding general fund budgets for Rio Rancho, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. According to this assessment, Las Cruces’ (same size city) mayoral salary is .000754% of their general fund budget. Setting our mayor at .000797% would put his/her salary at about $45,000/year (a $15,000 increase). Our analysis indicates that the compared budgets, while not apples and oranges, are more like comparing Fuji and Golden Delicious apples when taking into account general funds affected by airports, civic centers or utilities revenue. Even so, this is a much more practical, reasonable number. It did not receive the support of the committee. Furthermore, our current mayor received an administrative pay increase from $26,000 to $30,000/year just this month.
I’ve heard it said that increasing the pay will “cut out the riffraff”. That it will “attract quality applicants”. This position is more about prestige and less about actual work or knowledge. That won’t change until expectations match responsibilities. In the care and feeding of mayors we are also feeding egos. I can sympathize that a mayor may not want to make the same as his or her secretary; but without a doubt, the secretary is working twice as hard for that pay. Whether our mayor plays Candy Crush half the day or pursues the goals of our Governing Body—the job does not make the person, the person makes the job.