Mukilteo mayor says raise not enough

MUKILTEO – Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine got a raise, but it wasn’t as big as he hoped.

As a result, he said, he may have to scale back the time he spends at City Hall.

The City Council voted unanimously this week to increase the mayor’s monthly salary from $1,800 to $2,500. That bumps his annual pay from $21,600 to $30,000. Marine will also begin receiving the same benefits as full-time city workers.

Marine is still underpaid compared with mayors in 10 other similarly sized cities in the region, according to a study conducted by a Seattle consultant.

The average mayoral salary of the cities studied was $3,626 – roughly $1,100 more than Marine’s new paycheck.

Marine said he appreciates the raise, but the pay increase isn’t large enough to compensate for the 40 to 50 hours a week he’s spending in his public job. With his new salary, he’s earning about $14 an hour while on city business.

“I guess the message the council is sending is they don’t want me here full time,” Marine said. “I can’t be the full-time mayor at that salary range.”

Marine’s regular job is insurance agent but he hasn’t had much time to pursue that line of work since becoming mayor.

City Council President Jennifer Gregerson said the mayor’s position hadn’t received a pay raise since 2002. The raise given this week wasn’t meant to make the job a full-time position, she said.

“It was more that it just needed to be caught up,” Gregerson said.

The City Council also opted not to establish an independent commission to set the salaries of the mayor and council. Some council members felt a separate commission might set salaries too high, without a way for the council to override its decisions.

However, a salary commission wouldn’t face the same political pressure as elected officials, Marine said. For that reason, a commission wouldn’t be as reluctant to talk about increasing the pay of public officials, he said.

“We’re going to have to address this again as we annex, and it would be nice to have the salary commission to look at it impartially instead of politically,” Marine said. “I think we missed that opportunity.”

Councilman Tony Tinsley said the mayor was due for a cost-of-living adjustment.

“He’s been a hardworking mayor, and an effective mayor, and he deserves consideration,” Tinsley said.

Mukilteo, with an estimated population of 19,940 according to state data, is one of 16 cities in Snohomish County with a mayor-council form of government. In mayor-council governments, the mayor acts as the city’s executive officer and handles day-to-day operations.

In April, Marine asked the council to make his position a full-time job and to raise his pay to $92,959 a year.Council members denied the request, saying voters should decide whether the position should be made full time.

Since then, a Seattle-based consulting firm compared Marine’s paycheck with the wages of other mayors. The study focussed on cities with a mayor-council form of government and roughly Mukilteo’s size.

The largest city in the study was Mount Vernon, population 28,710, where the mayor earns $7,014 per month. The smallest city was Lake Forrest Park, population 12,770, where the mayor earns $3,626.

Mukilteo resident Pat Kessler – who regularly attends council meetings and is seeking election for City Council Position 6 – said Marine may be dealing with more issues than other recent mayors in Mukilteo.

He deserved a raise, she said, but she also agrees with the council’s decision to not make his position full time.

“I think he’s a good, hard-working mayor, and I think he’s done so much to promote our city,” Kessler said. “However, he took the job knowing what it was.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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