As Modesto voters in November decide who to elect to three city council districts, it is important to think about the long-term leadership impacts of not just these three councilmembers but also of the overall city leadership.
And leadership starts at the top.
In two more years, Modestans will vote on the city’s mayor and three more council seats. But between these two elections lies an opportunity to visit the salaries for our elected leaders. It’s not about putting more money into the pockets of elected officials. Rather, it’s about making sure potential leaders are fairly compensated for the work we all expect them to perform.
Section 703 of the City of Modesto Charter calls for a Citizens Salary Setting Commission to meet between March 1 and April 30 of even-numbered years to determine whether to recommend increases in the salaries of the mayor and councilmembers. If the commission decides an increase is warranted, that increase must be publicly noticed and two public hearings conducted before the city council considers the recommendation – which would become effective July 1 of that year.
The charter specifies the qualifications for the five-member commission, and members cannot serve more than two four-year terms.
The charter also sets maximum salaries of:
▪ Mayor: No more than 50 percent of the salary of a Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge;
▪ Councilmembers: No more than 50 percent of the median family income for the Modesto Metropolitan Statistical Area as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.
This doesn’t allow for much wiggle room for council members, but provides a great deal of flexibility for the mayor.
Mayor Ted Brandvold currently is entitled to $43,200, but he has elected to voluntarily reduce his city salary by 4.6 percent. Councilmembers earn $24,000 annually.
It’s important to make certain salary and benefits for Modesto city workers are competitive so that we can attract the most-qualified people to work in the city. The same should hold true for elected officials. Modesto deserves leaders who can afford to commit the time to effectively lead us forward.
The Citizens Salary Setting Commission should take this responsibility to heart when it meets in early 2018.
Visiting editor Karen McLaughlin a Modesto resident and former Manteca city manager.
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