Panel says full-time mayor in Lake Stevens should earn 80K

Salary commission set the figure Thursday. An Oct. 19 hearing gives residents a chance to respond

Lake Stevens Mayor Brett Gailey.

Lake Stevens Mayor Brett Gailey.

LAKE STEVENS — A citizen panel decided Thursday the city should pay its soon-to-be full-time mayor $80,000 a year.

The five-member Lake Stevens Salary Commission unanimously agreed on the annual wage for the nonpartisan elected post that is being converted from a part-time job to a full-time gig. There will be benefits which the City Council should determine, the commission decided.

In reaching a decision, commissioners reviewed what mayors in similar-sized cities earn. They also considered the potential impact on the city’s budget of setting too high of a salary.

They settled on a figure chairwoman Michelle Hampton deemed “not too low but not too high.” The salary of the current mayor, Brett Gailey, is $26,804.

City Council members approved an ordinance last month to make the elected nonpartisan post a full-time job. The change will take effect once the commission adopts a salary, a process which won’t wrap up for a few weeks.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. Oct. 19 to gather comments from residents. Then, following the hearing, they could set the salary as now proposed, enact a revised amount based on what they hear or hold additional meetings.

The commission must file a figure with the City Clerk. That salary will take effect 30 days later and at that point Gailey would become the city’s first full-time elected mayor. Once set, the salary cannot be changed by the city council, only the commission.

Gailey, reached late Thursday, did not comment on the panel’s decision. He said he’s not taken part in discussions on the salary and looked forward to reviewing materials considered by the commission.

When the 47-year-old Gailey was elected mayor last year he had a full-time job with the Everett Police Department. He earned $106,000 in 2019, according to city figures.. He retired in May, shortly after the settlement of his civil lawsuit against the city in which he argued he was wrongfully and repeatedly passed over for promotions.

Two months after Gailey’s retirement, the Lake Stevens City Council began in earnest to make the mayor a full-time job, a move discussed but never pursued in the tenure of the previous mayor, John Spencer. Spencer has endorsed making the position full-time.

That timing aroused suspicions with some critics who said this was not a subject discussed in last fall’s mayoral campaign. To some, it appeared the council majority was moving quickly to provide the newly retired Gailey another full-time job.

In Lake Stevens, a city of 34,000 residents, the mayor is directly elected to serve a four-year term and is the city’s CEO responsible for hiring key staffers, representing Lake Stevens in various civic roles, and serving as the public face of government. The mayor hires the city administrator to handle the day-to-day operations but is kept in the loop.

Only a handful of cities in Snohomish County operate with full-time mayors earning full-time salaries.

Lynnwood, with a population of 40,690, pays its mayor $112,272, according to data compiled by Lake Stevens city staff for the salary commission. In Edmonds, which is slightly more populous, the mayor earned $125,928 in 2019, while in Marysville, which has 69,180 residents, the salary is $142,848.

The mayor of Everett, the county’s most populous city, has a salary of $193,212 while in Mukilteo, with just over 21,000 residents, the mayor makes $70,800 annually. Arlington, with 20,600 residents, pays its mayor $27,000 a year while in Monroe the annual wage is $43,200, according to the data reviewed by commissioners.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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