Palmetto mayor paid less than top aide

jtate@bradenton.comAugust 3, 2013 

PALMETTO -- As Palmetto city commissioners consider their 2013-14 budget, there's a call to give the mayor a raise.

Commissioner Charles Smith pointed out at Wednesday's budget workshop that Shirley Groover Bryant makes less than her administrative assistant.

"I think it behooves her to make more than her executive assistant. Now don't get me wrong, I love the assistant," said Smith. "But it makes no sense that she oversees the executive assistant but makes less money."

He said the mayor's position in Palmetto requires they take on the role of a city manager. The mayor has authority over all departments, but gets paid less than half of other top official salaries, said Smith,

"I recommend the mayor make at least $1 more than the administrative assistant. It makes logical sense," said Smith.

He said at the current salary, only retired or well-off people could be mayor and live comfortably.

"It's a matter of fairness," said Smith. "No one would take a job without retirement benefits."

The proposed salary for the mayor is $40,976, which includes a 3 percent cost-of-living increase.

The administrative assistant is proposed to make $42,794 plus benefits and a pension.

The mayor's salary includes health insurance, but not a retirement pension. She and city commissioners have the option to pay into a pension with their own money.

Smith said he's not crusading solely to benefit Bryant, but to ensure people can afford to be mayor.

Commissioner Tamara Cornwell said she will have to look into the matter more in-depth.

"At this point, I'm not for it or against it," said Cornwell.

Bryant said, as a commissioner, she was against increasing the salary of former Palmetto Mayor Larry Bustle, but after doing the job full-time the past five years, she now understands why it's needed.

"I believe the position should be paid more than the position directly underneath it," said Bryant. "Fortunately my children are grown, so I can afford to be mayor."

Bryant said she made significantly more money in the private sector, but she didn't get into politics for the money.

She also said it would be impossible for her to do her job well and get a second job as suggested during a past meeting.

"There's no way I can be as strong and do what I need to do as mayor," said Bryant.

Commissioner Brian Williams agreed.

"It's not possible have a part-time job as mayor and do an adequate job," Williams said.

He said in the 1990s, city commissioners discussed increasing the mayor's salary after it turned into a full-time job. The commissioners even considered hiring a city manager.

City managers make an average salary of $90,000 to $100,000 to run a city of Palmetto's size, he said.

"We couldn't transition to that and be able to afford it," he said.

Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter @Janey_Tate.

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