SLC’s mayor wants a $44K raise. Here’s how Erin Mendenhall’s salary compares to other local officials’.

Mendenhall’s 2022 base pay of nearly $158,000 was second only to one other mayor, but lagged behind many city managers.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall during a meeting about the proposed downtown sports and entertainment district on Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s proposal to give herself a nearly $44,000 raise comes down to fairness, her office insists. It’s about chipping away at pay disparities within City Hall and throughout leadership positions in other Utah municipalities.

So, how does the mayor’s pay stack up against compensation for other local government executives across the Beehive State? The Salt Lake Tribune looked at the latest complete data set available on the state auditor’s website, Transparent Utah, for answers.

Mendenhall currently makes $168,067, according to the proposal submitted to the Salt Lake City Council. If the 26% raise gets the council nod, she’ll make $211,765. (Because council and mayoral salaries are tied together, council members also stand to get a 26% pay bump, from about $42,000 to roughly $53,000.)

In 2022, the most recent year of data Transparent Utah has that includes Mendenhall’s pay, the mayor earned a base salary of nearly $158,000, putting her compensation behind only one other mayor: Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, whose base pay was nearly $176,000. Those wages do not include benefits.

When factoring in city and county managers across the state, however, Mendenhall’s base pay ranks 27th among local officials, according to the website. At the top of the 2022 list is now-retired West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle, whose base pay was more than $280,000.

Mendenhall’s spokesperson, Andrew Wittenberg, highlighted that disparity this week.

“The Salt Lake City mayor leads the municipal government of the most populous city in one of the fastest-growing, most dynamic states in the U.S,” Wittenberg said in a statement. “While it’s difficult to draw comparisons across cities with different forms of government,” he continued, Mendenhall makes less than city managers or administrators in smaller locales.

Wittenberg said the mayor’s administration collected updated compensation data directly from each city and found that with her current salary, Mendenhall now ranks 28th in pay among local government leaders in Utah.

The work Mendenhall does overseeing day-to-day city operations, Wittenberg said, is more similar to that of a city manager than a mayor who serves in a part-time capacity.

Whether a community has a mayor or city manager as its top executive depends on the municipality’s form of government. City managers operate within a “council-manager” form of government and are not elected. Instead, they are hired by and report to city councils.

Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County operate under a ”strong-mayor” form of government, where administrative functions fall under the mayor’s purview. At both the city and county levels, councils operate as the legislative branch of government.

Unlike most mayors in Utah, Mendenhall and Wilson hold full-time positions as the top executives of their respective levels of government.

Mendenhall’s proposal stirred vigorous discussion this week among both supporters and opponents. When asked if the amount of feedback influenced any further consideration on the mayor’s proposal, Wittenberg replied with a one-word answer: “No.”

A public hearing on Mendenhall’s request is scheduled for June 4.