West Jordan • Council members in Utah's fourth largest city voted Wednesday to increase the mayor's pay almost fivefold, just days before the filing period opens for municipal races that will be on November's ballot.
While more than 105,000 people reside in West Jordan, the city operates under the council-manager form of government where the mayor is considered part-time and head of the City Council and gets compensated accordingly.
In West Jordan, that salary is $18,366 per year plus benefits, said Mayor Melissa Johnson, but the position is far from part-time. Johnson said she gave up her private-sector job due to the full-time demands of representing the city as its lead elected official.
While Johnson will not seek re-election in November, she hoped to pave the way for her successor to receive compensation commensurate with the job's full-time nature. The period to file for nonpartisan mayor and City Council races runs from Monday through June 7.
The council voted 4-to-1 to raise the mayor's salary to $89,500 plus a full benefit package and vehicle allowance, which bumps full compensation to about $130,000. The new rate takes effect in January.
A handful of Salt Lake County cities operate under the council-mayor form of government, with "strong" mayors who function as executives who administer the day-to-day affairs of the city. That list includes Murray, Salt Lake City, Sandy, South Salt Lake and Taylorsville.
Councilman Justin Stoker, one of the four votes in favor, noted that most of Utah's "strong" mayors earn more than $100,000 plus benefits.
"I don't think we need to go there," Stoker said of the six-figure salary, "even though â¦ our mayor would be going to the same meetings and have many of the same responsibilities."
Councilman Chris McConnehey, also a yes vote, said he believed the city was moving in the right direction, "even though I'm somewhat uneasy about the magnitude of some of the changes."
Councilman Chad Nichols was absent for the vote due to a delayed airplane flight. Councilman Ben Southworth exited the meeting during the discussion and vote because he intends to run for mayor in November.
Councilman Clive Killpack cast the lone no vote.
"I think it's a little high in the price," Killpack said, noting that he probably would have been in favor of a $78,000 annual salary.
While salary adjustments can be made by the City Council, a change in a city's form of government must be decided by voters at the ballot box.