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Pay boost, defined duties for mayor eyed

Didier: Spend efforts on saving money

Dec. 9, 2009

Should Wauwatosa's mayor be paid more? At least one alderman thinks so, but the sitting mayor says don't mess with success.

Alderman Brian Ewerdt asked city officials to look at increasing mayoral compensation, which is now an annual $22,500 salary.

For a city the size of Wauwatosa - about 46,000 residents and more than 400 city employees - the dollar amount seems significantly low, especially when compared with the six-figure salaries some of the city managers make, he said.

"I would like to see this in the $45,000 range," Ewerdt said.

That salary would provide a more realistic living wage, he said. At this point, heads of households or single parents likely would not be able to afford to serve as mayor.

Alderman James Krol voiced concern that the existing pay level is "limiting the candidate pool because people just can't economically consider that position." Adding fringe benefits may also be necessary, he said.

Any changes the Common Council would make could not go into effect until the start of the next mayoral term in April 2012, City Administrator James Archambo told the Employee Relations Committee on Tuesday.

That gives the committee time to explore and better define mayoral duties and responsibilities, which are left vague in state and city laws, committee Chairman Peter Donegan said.

He was quick to point out the discussion is about the position, not the performance of the current mayor, Jill Didier.

Didier called the discussion and the time staff is spending researching the topic "a waste of time."

"We are wasting energy on a system that isn't broke," the mayor said, adding it's not possible to create a checklist of duties for her position.

She called the mayoral position "undefinable," and said time would be better spent looking for changes that could provide savings in future city budgets.

Donegan wasn't convinced, asking staff to bring back information on how the mayor's position operates to discuss when the council resumes meeting in January.

City ordinance declares the mayor the city's chief executive officer, and the state deems the mayor head of the city's Fire and Police departments. The duties are broad and open for interpretation, and seem more like the responsibilities assigned to the city administrator, Donegan said.

The position of city administrator was started in the 1970s. Little is known by city staff about the management responsibilities of the mayor prior to that time, Human Resources Director Beth Aldana said.

In a letter to fellow council members, Alderwoman Linda Nikcevich pushed for an analysis of the city's entire government structure.

"The city is not taking itself or the issues that are presented as seriously as it needs to," she said. "Both the mayor and alders' salary and job descriptions need to be evaluated in conjunction with a city government policy and procedure evaluation."

Community Position Population Salary Last pay increase
Wauwatosa Not defined 46,312 $22,500 1984
Brookfield Full-time 39,797 $96,240 2009
Cudahy Full-time 18,515 $60,770 Will increase in 2010
Greenfield Full-time 36,140 $71,332 2008
New Berlin Full-time 39,460 $90,364 2005
Oak Creek Part-time 32,104 Not provided 1997
West Allis Full-time 60,000 $58,000 Will increase in 2010

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