The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously Saturday to raise the next council’s pay by about $10,000 per year, but not without sniping between two recently defeated incumbents over whether the mayor’s job is full-time.
The 36 percent pay hike, the first substantial increase for the elected officials in 15 years, did not attract any objections from the public, with two residents calling for higher pay. The council chose to stick with the recommendations of a city-appointed task force that called for boosting the mayor’s pay from $30,500 to $41,600 and the six council members’ salaries from $27,500 to $37,500.
The compensation remains substantially lower than the wages paid to elected officials in neighboring counties. Arlington County pays its board members $53,282 and its chair about $6,000 more; Fairfax County pays board members $95,000 and its chair $10,000 more. In the region, only Falls Church and Fairfax City pay elected officials less than Alexandria.
The council declined to take the task force’s advice to review the salaries every two or three years to keep up with the cost of living.
The dust-up over the time consumed by the mayor’s position arose after two civic activists called for a mayoral salary of $90,000 or $200,000, saying the position has effectively become a full-time job.
Council member Paul Smedberg (D) noted that under the city-manager form of government, elected positions are part-time and not intended to be full-time jobs. Smedberg, who lost a reelection bid in the June 12 Democratic primary, said elected officials should better manage their time if they start putting in full-time hours.
Mayor Allison Silberberg (D), who also lost in the Democratic primary, noted that she and her predecessor, Bill Euille, put in “more than full-time” hours on the job. “We are managing my time, it is just a remarkable schedule,” she said.
Smedberg noted that he had spent all day Friday in a Northern Virginia Transportation Commission workshop while skipping “soft” events that residents may expect elected officials to attend. “That’s different from going to ribbon-cuttings. It’s a choice people make,” he said.
Neither Smedberg nor Silberberg will benefit from the pay raise, which takes effect when the new council enters office in January. At least two more new council members will be elected in November, after Timothy B. Lovain (D) decided not to run for reelection and Willie F. Bailey Sr. (D) lost in the primary.
The time-management tension was not the only conflict between Smedberg and Silberberg on Saturday, at the last public hearing before the council’s two-month summer break.
They wrangled over whether to delay the negotiation of a lease agreement between the city and a bakery at an empty slot at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. A local real estate investor asked the council to delay because he was in a legal dispute with the bakery.
Silberberg called it a “conundrum,” but Smedberg angrily responded that it was not and that a private dispute should not interrupt the city’s action. The council ultimately authorized the lease.