Mesa City Council members

Monday night, Mesa City Council members will vote on a raise for themselves, though they already make far more than most representatives of every Arizona city except Phoenix. All of the council members except Kevin Thompson answered questions from the Tribune about their salaries.

It’s not just a tough job interview process, it’s a ferocious one.

Rather than convincing a manager or two you’re the top candidate, for this job you have to convince thousands.

But, once you’re selected, the job is tough to beat: Mesa City Council members are paid more than $40,000 per year for what they admit is a part-time job.

The only requirements are to show up at meetings held twice per month. No clock punching required.

On top of that, they can give themselves a raise: Though they already make far more than most of their counterparts in other cities, Mesa City Council will vote Monday night on another salary increase.

 Months after giving 3 percent raises to all city workers, from garbage collectors to the city manager, the $1,200 they are considering for themselves would boost their part-time job salaries to $41,782.That’s nearly double the salaries that slightly larger Tucson pays its council members.

Though Mesa salaries are 34 percent lower than the $61,599 that Phoenix City Council members make, Phoenix is more than three times the size of Mesa. If Mesa Council members were paid comparatively, they would earn about $21,000 per year.

This, apparently, was not considered by the Independent Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials – whose members are appointed by the Mesa City Council and which recommended the raises.

Nor did the commission follow the advice of Catherine Schaefer-Day, a resident who posted her opinion on the city’s Facebook page:

“No raises. If you want raises, go find another position.”

But the commission recommends increasing the mayor’s salary from $73,545 to $74,745 and council salaries from $40,582 to $41,782.

In Gilbert, the mayor’s salary is $43,631 and council members make $21,012 per year.

In Chandler, the mayor’s salary is $55,916 and council members are paid $32,743 annually.

Scottsdale pays its mayor $51,000 and city council members $31,020.

Mesa also provides a “vehicle allowance” of $550 per month to the mayor and $350 per month to council members.

Mesa’s mayor and six council members also get $100 per month for “communication allowance” and are eligible for city benefits.

The salary increases were introduced last week and will be voted on at Monday’s meeting, according to Kevin Christopher, a city spokesman.

The Tribune asked each council member a series of questions about their pay and performance. Kevin Thompson of District 6 declined to answer. The other council members are Mark Freeman (District 1),  Julie Spilsbury (District 2),  Francisco Heredia (District 3), Jenn Duff (District 4) and David Luna (District 5).

Following the city’s procedure of press communication with council representatives, the questions were sent via Christopher.

He returned the answers from each of the council members (except Thompson); however, several answers were identical.

For example, the Tribune asked each council member what their regular office hours are.

Each replied identically:

“As listed on the City website, District 1 office hours are Monday – Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. I encourage constituents to call or email me should they have any questions, comments or concerns anytime.” 

None said they are available for “drop in” visits from residents.

Asked by the Tribune when they are available for constituents for unscheduled visits, each answered, “We encourage constituents to contact our office to schedule meetings.”

And each said they have an assistant “available to arrange in-person, phone or virtual meetings.”

So ... how many hours do they actually work?

Again, each provided a copy-and-paste answer:

“As council members, we are elected to serve the residents of our district. Although this is a part-time elected position, the demands of the position are often equivalent to a full-time job.”

Duff varied slightly, adding, “Although this is a part-time elected position, I work over 40 hrs/wk as a council member.” 

The Tribune also asked, “What do you feel you have done in the last year to make you worthy of the salary paid you?”

Again, a generic, group answer:

“It is important to remind the public that an independent commission determines our salaries. The salary is not usually a consideration when deciding to run for City Council. We run for office because we care about our community and want to make a difference. When we take our oath of office, we commit to serve all the residents in the district. Once you are a council member, you are always on the clock.”

Do they have other jobs?

“I am a farmer,” Freeman replied.

“I am a small business owner, owning a consulting company where I work with nonprofits, small businesses and other clients with a variety of projects and campaigns,” Heredia said. “I also own a commercial print shop in West Mesa.”

Spilsbury said she previously did books for a family business, adding, “My focus and commitment right now is to the city.”

Duff said she works at her business “five to 10 hours per week.”

Luna said he is a part-time faculty member at ASU.

The Tribune asked each council member what some of the major time demands of their jobs are.

Each answered similarly:

“Meeting with constituents, responding to constituent issues and communications and attending events in the district.”

Freeman added responding to constituent issues and communications and attending events for the city of Mesa and boards and committees I am appointed to.”

And Heredia noted he is “active in representing Mesa in other local, regional, and federal committees and opportunities. For example, currently I am the board chair for both Valley Metro RPTA and Valley Metro Rail along with serving on other committees.” 

Mesa City Council meets at 5:45 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers; the meeting will also be shown on the city’s Facebook page and Mesa Channel 11 (mesaaz.tv/live).

Agenda item 7b: “Repealing and replacing Ordinance 5314 relating to compensation, vehicle, and communication allowance and city benefits for the mayor and City Council, effective January 2023.” 

According to the city guidelines, citizens may comment in person, “Submit an online comment card at least one hour prior to the meeting by going to mesaaz.gov/bluecard” or by calling 888-788-0099 or 877-853-5247 (using meeting ID 5301232921) at the beginning of the meeting. 

(1) comment

USCitizen411

If I could vote myself a raise, I guess I would do it too. That said, raises should actually be voted on by their bosses, the taxpayers.

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