An ordinance to reinstate Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary’s salary and benefits to around $80,000 a year has stalled for now with the city’s General Committee voting Tuesday to further study the measure.
The city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted in May of 2020 to decrease the mayor’s salary to around $42,000 in anticipation of hiring a City Administrator.
After Clary and several alderman candidates who opposed the city administrator position won their seats in the Nov. 3 city elections, board members voted recently to do away with that position and instead allow the mayor to hire a Chief of Operations.
While a City Administrator answers to the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Chief of Operations (COO) will report directly to the mayor. The COO will handle many of the responsibilities of managing the day-to-day operations at City Hall currently held by the city administrator – and formerly held by the mayor.
Clary is expected to have a Chief of Operations in place by the end of March. The annual pay range for that position is $85,000-$120,000.
The ordinance proposed by Clary on Tuesday amends the city’s current budget by adding $36,622.76 for the mayor’s salary; $2,495.64 for FICA; and $3,705.95 for an increased retirement expense. The move reinstates what the mayor was making before the current budget year started on July 1, 2020.
Restoring the mayor’s pay is something voters have asked for, Clary said on Tuesday.
“Voters said they wanted to see us eliminate the city administrator and restore the mayor’s salary,” he told committee members.
Two General Committee members said they’d like to get through the hiring process for a Chief of Operations first before re-instating the mayor’s salary.
“I don’t know if $85,000 is realistic for the COO,” said Ward 5 Alderman Jonathan Hayes. “I’d like to hold off until we see what the Chief of Operations costs us.”
Ward 4 alderman Steve Brown agreed, and said that the job description for the COO is almost identical to that of a city administrator. City leaders voted in July to hire Carmen Davis of Mississippi to become the city’s first permanent city administrator with an annual salary of $143,000. Davis later declined the offer.
Brown said he’d like to see what the role of the mayor would be with the new COO position in place before agreeing on a set mayor’s salary.
“I would think we would like to see a list of duties the mayor is supposed to perform – a job description for the mayor,” said Brown.
Brown made a motion that Clary complete a job description for his position. Once the COO is hired and a salary is established for that position, the General and Finance committees will meet jointly to revisit the issue.
“This motion is not what the voters asked for,” Clary argued.
“I would think the voters would want to see due diligence done by this committee,” Brown replied.
“There are a lot of things to work through,” said Ward 2 Alderman Pat Campbell. “I had a lot of people tell me they didn’t want to pay a city administrator [to do the same job the mayor was doing].”
Campbell asked if this wouldn’t apply to a Chief of Operations as well.
Brown’s motion passed 2 to 1 with Hayes and Brown voting for it and Ward 6 Alderman Jim Waters voting against it.
The item first came before members of the Finance Committee on Jan. 26. At that time, Clary had included the pay raise as part of an ordinance that also designated money for paving as well as some parks department funding.
Finance Committee members voted to create a separate ordinance dealing with just the mayor’s salary and asked the city’s General Committee to make a recommendation.