Duluth Council OKs 25 Percent Pay Raise for Mayor

Updated: 11/26/2013 6:33 PM
Created: 11/25/2013 10:56 PM

Duluth city councilors approved a 25 percent raise to Mayor Don Ness' salary in their meeting Monday night.

The resolution passed by a 5-3 vote, with councilors Jim Stauber, Patrick Boyle and Howie Hanson voting no.

The raise increases Ness' salary from $78,000 to $97,500. The position's salary hasn't been increased since 2000, according to the resolution language. Meanwhile it says in that time, pay for other city employees has gone up 11 times.

The resolution was authored by Councilor Sharla Gardner. She told the council that she had researched the salaries of mayors in more than a dozen cities with populations similar to that of Duluth, including Minneapolis and St. Paul. "I think a 25 percent raise over 14 years is fair," she said.

Winning Gardner's support was Councilor Linda Krug. She said monitoring and increasing the mayor's salary is a responsibility the council can't ignore. "For almost a decade and a half, 14 years, the council has not done its duty."

Before casting a no vote, Councilor Jim Stauber said "I have no issue giving the mayor a raise, a one, two or three percent raise. But 25 percent is a bit over the top for me."

The resolution also creates a mayor salary review committee. It will include city councilors, and three community leaders who are selected, appointed and approved by the council.

Council President Patrick Boyle said he liked the idea of the raise, but not the process. "I feel a little rushed. I would rather have the review committee formed and come up with recommendations."

Ness has stayed out of the conversation almost completely. However, Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery told councilors that Ness felt uncomfortable about the way the resolution was initially drafted. The language said the raise would be "effective January 1, 2013" meaning he would have received back pay.

The language was changed in an amendment which also passed Monday night. The raise will instead take effect in next month.

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