PORT TOWNSEND — Significant raises are in store for Port Townsend’s City Council and mayor in the wake of a special commission’s decision this past week.
As of January, the mayor’s salary will go from $750 per month to $1,025. The other six members of the council will be paid $700 monthly, up from $500.
That includes the newly elected Aislinn Diamanti, Ben Thomas and Libby Wennstrom, who will join Amy Howard, David Faber, Owen Rowe and Monica MickHager.
The five-member salary commission’s ruling will be final unless a referendum petition is filed within 30 days.
The commission was formed last summer after Mayor Michelle Sandoval and the council called for a reconsideration of members’ salaries.
The low pay, Howard asserted, undervalues the elected officials’ time, and potentially deters non-affluent people from running.
The volunteer salary commission — composed of former Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson and residents Jack McCreary, Kristine Morris, Julia Cochrane and George Randels — noted that council compensation has remained static for 14 years.
On the raises, the commissioners were unanimous.
They took them a step further, authorizing cost-of-living adjustments over the next seven years: Come 2024, the mayor’s pay will rise to $1,075 per month and the council members’ to $725.
Two years later, those salaries will increase by $50 monthly, and finally, in 2028, the mayor will make $1,175 and the councilors $800 per month.
In their deliberations, which began in August, the commissioners considered the U.S. Labor Department consumer price index along with council salaries in cities similar in size to Port Townsend, which has 9,551 residents.
The raises bring the mayor and council members’ salaries up higher than several cities in the commission’s report.
The mayor of Sequim, whose population is reported at 7,940 in 2019, is paid $565 per month while the rest of the council receives $350. In Port Angeles, population 20,200, the mayor’s salary is $650 monthly and the members’ $550.
Woodinville, a city of 12,800 in King County, pays its mayor $700 and its council members $600.
The commissioners also interviewed all seven current council members about how much time they devote to their duties.
For Faber, who took office in January 2020, that ranges anywhere from 10 to more than 20 hours per week.
Faber, a 38-year-old attorney, is also deputy mayor. He said he’s willing to serve as mayor in the new year if his fellow council members elect him. Sandoval is retiring from the council.
“I don’t love the additional time and having a target on my back,” he said; “at the same time, I love my community. And I actually do love the work.”
Rowe, who is also in his second year on the council, said he spends 10 to 15 hours weekly on his duties. He also works two other part-time jobs: as Centrum’s box office manager and the Food Co-op’s board treasurer.
Part of his initial motivation for running, added Rowe, 53, was the fact that he was volunteering on several city boards and commissions anyway.
So, “even the old salary was a raise,” he said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]