Quincy Councillors OK $285,000 Salary For Mayor

By SCOTT JACKSON

In a 7-1 vote on Monday, Quincy city councillors approved an ordinance that will raise Mayor Thomas Koch’s salary from $150,900 to $285,000, effective next year.

Koch on May 20 introduced the ordinance to increase his salary to $285,000, along with a separate ordinance to raise the salary for each city councillor from $29,800 to $47,500. Councillors passed ordinance increasing the mayor’s salary Monday but did not vote on the one to raise their own salaries; that vote could take place on June 17. Ward 5 Councillor Daniel Minton voted against the raise for the mayor while Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain was not in attendance.

Councillors in April had received a report from an outside firm, Dorminson Consulting, that recommended a salary between $298,957 and $370,000 for the mayor; Dorminson was paid $9,500 to complete the study. Councillors also received a report from the Department of Municipal Finance listing the salaries for chief administrative officers – such as city and town managers – in 42 Massachusetts communities.

Koch’s chief of staff, Chris Walker, on Monday said the $285,000 salary was below the range recommended by Dorminson and was “fair, reasonable [and] in line with a number of other communities – if not today, then within the next year or two.” Walker also said the mayor had not received a pay raise in ten years and the salary should not inhibit others from running for the position in the future.

“As everybody on this body knows, it’s a 24-7 job,” Walker said. “There’s no vacation time. There’s no sick time. The mayor is the mayor.”

Ward 1 Councillor David McCarthy, the chairperson of the council’s finance committee, said he provided his colleagues with a report on the salaries for the executive teams in other Massachusetts communities. Cambridge – which has about 17,000 more residents than Quincy – will pay its executive team $736,999 in fiscal year 2024, McCarthy said; the mayor of Cambridge makes $143,374, the city manager makes $309,000, and the deputy city manager makes $284,625.

McCarthy said there is no deputy mayor in Quincy, while many city or town managers have a deputy to assist them.

“Everybody has a deputy city manager. Everybody has an assistant town administrator. This is a single executive position. Everybody has the Chris Walkers and the Al Graziosos of the world,” McCarthy said, referring to Koch’s chief of staff and Quincy’s commissioner of public works.

“In all these other towns, they all have that type of organization, but this is a single mayor, single executive position. There is no deputy mayor.”

McCarthy – who at one point had to tell audience members not to talk while councillors were deliberating – added that Quincy’s mayor has responsibilities similar to city and town managers in other communities.

“People will say town manager is different, city manager is different. They all put the pants on the same way. They all come out and work,” McCarthy said. “The salary is the salary.”

Ward 6 Councillor William Harris said the $285,000 salary was “very much reduced” from the $370,000 figure at the high end of the Dorminson reccomendation. He said being mayor is a 24-hour, 365-day job and the salary needs be enough to attract qualified candidates.

“Things need to be done and if you don’t have the right person there, they won’t get done,” Harris said. “The job has to equal the pay.”

Harris – who had objected to the ordinance that would increase councillors’ salaries when it was introduced on May 20, delaying that vote – said he would not be voting for those raises and suggested the $157,000 in cumulative raises councillors would receive would be enough to offset the mayor’s $134,100 raise.

“I don’t think we should take it,” Harris said of the proposed raises for city councillors.

Councillor Nina Liang said the salaries paid to office holders have traditionally limited who can run for those positions.

“There is a lot of talk about equity and DEI and access and representation and all that. Let me tell you, a lot of the conversation happening around that is people saying, ‘well, the system is set up to keep people like me out.’ Why? Because typically speaking government and the way that it’s compensated is set up for access for people who have wealth and access to wealth and can not work so they can then full-time campaign to get into office,” Liang said.

“They’re not single mothers who have to worry about paying for childcare, because they can just go off and run for office. A lot of the conversation then is how do we make access more equitable – we make sure that that single mother can afford a job that she can go into to be the mayor of the city and still pay $30,000 a year in childcare.”

Councillor Scott Campbell said the mayor’s salary should be adjusted and while $285,000 may not make sense now, it will in the long run. The salary will help attract candidates in the future, he added.

“[It] will make sense in the long run for the person we hope will continue on the legacy of what’s being created here,” Campbell said. “As [the city] continues to grow and continues to build and we continue to do all these amazing things, I think we need to make sure that the person that is coming in next is prepared and ready.”

Ward 2 Councillor Richard Ash said he heard from many constituents who supported the raise though “given the press and the news coverage…the opposition seems to be louder.” He said the salary for the position should be equal to the responsibilities that come with it.

“$285,000 is cause for pause and certainly a reason for us to do our due diligence. What I found in the dozens of conversations, phone calls, emails, in-person meetings – I phoned a friend and I want everyone to know that – what I found was that supporters think it’s fine. Those individuals who didn’t support the mayor in the last election don’t think any raise should be given or think a nominal raise should be given,” Ash said.

“I think it is imperative to back that all the way up and to value this position at a number that is commensurate with the size of the city, the budget, the operations and the experience. So that is what I have decided to do.”

Ward 4 Councillor James Devine said Quincy is doing better than other communities in the state, and that is no accident.

“These numbers work. I know they seem exorbitant but we’re one of the largest cities in the state and, I hope that nobody argues with me on this, we’re the best one in the state. We’re doing phenomenal. There’s cities around us having issues. They’re losing fire department members, they’re losing teachers, they can’t keep their equipment running,” Devine said.

“This isn’t an accident. Quincy isn’t just bigger and better. We’re better because we’ve been working on this for a very, very long time.”

Minton, who cast the dissenting vote on Monday, said few people are interested in running for public office and noted some councillors, including himself, were unopposed in last year’s municipal election.

“There is a community nearby who advertised to get residents to run for various positions, that’s how bad it is,” Minton said. “There has to be a better way. We have to come up with a better system.”

Minton said he heard from many people who were troubled by the Dorminson report and he disregarded the study because it “does not directly relate to Quincy” and the “comparisons to other cities and towns did not carry much weight.” Minton said he would support a raise for the mayor and city councillors, but not what was proposed.

“The amount of [$285,000] for the mayor and $47,000 for the City Council are being proposed. I believe both of these are on the high side,” he said. “There has to be a better way to look at raises in the future than every nine years. My reccomendation for the mayor is $230,000 and for city councillors, $38,000.”

More than two dozen residents attended Monday’s meeting with various signs urging the councillors to reject the proposed raises. Those residents left the chamber following the council’s vote.

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