Snohomish Council tackles touchy subject of mayoral pay hike

A Tuesday work session will be a chance for the City Council to discuss if it’s time for an adjustment

SNOHOMISH — Should the mayor of this city be paid more?

That’s a question City Councilmembers will ponder Tuesday in a 5 p.m. virtual work session on how Snohomish’s compensation ranks with other cities in the region and across the state.

No action is planned. It will be one of the first substantive conversations on the subject since November 2017 when voters installed a strong mayor form of government by 11 votes and narrowly elected John Kartak to the executive job.

Ahead of that election, the City Council set the annual wage at $18,000. There’s been no adjustments.

“We’ve had four years of having an elected mayor. It’s time to look at (the salary) and consider if it’s the right one,” Councilman Tom Merrill said. “We won’t make a decision. We’ll have to have more workshops. I am going into it with a mostly open mind. I have not reached a conclusion.”

Kartak thinks it should be higher. He promised in his 2017 campaign to work full-time as mayor — though it’s not a city requirement — and said it is a “sacrifice” to do so with the “unnecessarily low part-time salary.”

He’s not confident the current council is in the mood to make any adjustments and intends to refrain from engaging deeply in Tuesday’s discussion.

“I trust the council to make the decision. It’s their job,” he said.

As part of the work session, council members will review data on mayoral pay in cities with populations between 5,000 and 15,000 in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The city of Snohomish has a population of 10,240.

In the analysis prepared for the council, Sultan and Stanwood each pay their mayors the same amount as Snohomish — $1,500 a month. Duvall, a city of 7,950 in King County, pays its top elected official $2,000 a month and DuPont, a city of 9,525 in Pierce County, pays its mayor $2,100 a month.

Not too far away, Monroe, a town of just under 20,000, is paying its mayor $3,600 a month and in Arlington, with nearly 21,000 residents, the monthly pay is $7,100, according to the report.

Councilman Steve Dana supports paying the Snohomish mayor more though he’s not sure how much more. He said he would be surprised if there is any recommendation to do so.

“I am not sure there is a will to address the issue substantially,” he said. “I think it will just die due to a lack of interest.”

Dana said he’d prefer the council create a citizen salary commission to deal with wages for the mayor and council members. It can be a little touchy when people make recommendations on raises that affect themselves, he said.

A council majority rejected the idea earlier this year.

“I don’t believe in the salary commission,” Merrill said. “The citizens of Snohomish elected us to make hard decisions. Setting appropriate levels of salary for mayor is one of those hard decisions.”

Should the council, at some point, make a salary change, it would likely not take effect until after the winner of this year’s mayoral election is sworn in.

Kartak is seeking re-election. He is opposed by Linda Redmon and Sam King in the Aug. 3 primary.

Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; @dospueblos

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