The City Plans on a Raise

The City Commission of Great Falls plans to give City Manager, John Lawton, a raise to $91,916.00 per year. Together with benefits, he currently earns about $117,500.00. In a sidebar to the article, not available on the free online version of the Great Falls Tribune, we see that, in 2002, Mr. Lawton earned a base salary of $82,000.00, meaning his income has increased a little over 12% in 4 years.

Commissioners point out that he makes less than the managers of Billings and Bozeman (would you trade our economy for theirs?), and more than managers in Missoula, Kalispell & Helena (would you trade our economy for theirs?)

City managers on the whole, then, must do pretty darn well since the per capita income in Great Falls, i.e. the income the rest of us earn, is $21,630.00. In other words, the average wage earner in this community earns about 23% of our chief public employee.

To be honest, I really don't have that much heartburn over what Mr. Lawton is paid. At least not conceptually, in terms of our city manager generally. You get what you pay for and, if you want to lead, you have to be willing to spend the money to attract the best people. This is not to say, though, that there are no issues with his salary.

First, Mr. Lawton has already indicated that he will be retiring soon. Thus, any rationale of using income to attract and retain the best talent is out the window. This almost seems like a gift of our money to a friend of the Commission, because they all clearly like the guy.

Second, I just wish the Commission would start evaluating Mr. Lawton based on objective, employment-related criteria. Oh, we always hear about what a great job he does for us, or how he's "got the skill to do this job like no other city manager in the state." Yeah, whatever... That and fifty cents will buy a cup of coffee. I'm pretty sure this is why they invented the phrase, "Yada yada yada..."

I think the Commission should evaluate his tenure based on criteria that matter:

*What, if any, has been the increase in real income of the residents during his tenure? Has our income increased as much as his?

*Have your taxes and fees gone up or down for the same services?

*Has the population of Great Falls seen steady increases?

*Has the Commission considered serious issues of mis-management, including the golf courses, the Lewis and Clark fiasco, and the extra parking garage? How well have the swimming pools been managed?

*Has the use of methamphetamine in our community increased or decreased?

*Was he instrumental in passing a land use (zoning) code that is enforced unevenly?

*Was he instrumental in passing a sign code that remains unenforced?

*How often do we have to pay outside consultants to perform management duties for us?

But no, the Commission doesn't evaluate Mr. Lawton on results, they evaluate him on effort.

"He just continues to get everything done for us," said Commissioner Jovick-Kuntz. That's a fair point. The City Commission is expected to set policy for the future, Manager Lawton is supposed to execute that policy. Maybe the Commission should ask the foregoing questions of themselves, and see how they have been performing.


david said...

1982? Or 2002?

On the overall issue, as you note, I have no real problem with his salary, but it would indeed be nice to have some standards by which to evaluate the performance of the City Manager.

I wonder what, specifically, is in the job description for the GF City Manager.

Anonymous said...

I think he's paid too much. Take a look at the salary of the assistant city manager. She makes a ton of money too for Great Falls. She 's most likely the next city manager.

Aaron Weissman said...

Anon; <$120k to run an organization the size of our city government? You think that is too much?

I second the idea of objective criteria, but there is no way that we could maintain any professional administrator unless we pay what the market will bear.

Walter Greenspan said...

I, and lots of others, voted for the current Mayor because of her promise to replace the current City Manager. What happened to that promise?

GeeGuy said...

I was a little slow on the uptake here. There was comment posted here which I have since removed. I removed it, not for the ideas it expressed, but for the use of profanity. I am no prude, but I generally would like my kids to be able to read my blog if they ever wanted to. Here is the comment, 'cleaned up' a bit.

"Our Mayor is in the club now...they're pals! I thought she was going to stir up the crap, but she's just eating it like the rest of them."

free thought said...

If we worry about keeping salaries cheap, we should worry about the quality of applicants. True public servants are rare. I, for one, encourage high pay for those who manage our money, our freedom, our safety. I want the best people doing that. If they can make more in the private sector, then they will.

If government jobs are for low pay, then we get people who are not competent, or those who only want the power. Both scare me.

GeeGuy said...

"You get what you pay for and, if you want to lead, you have to be willing to spend the money to attract the best people."

Thus, I agree with you FT. My beef is with the lack of objective analysis brought to bear on the performance of Mr. Lawton.

Big Sky Husker said...

I agree the city should pay a competitive salary... but what has Lawton done? Look at the criteria GeeGuy listed. Based on that, I don't see how Lawton warrants a pay raise.