Because of the nature of their position, city managers don't come cheap, and Mayor Shari Green was quick to defend the $212,600 salary the city is prepared to offer to the person who replaces the outgoing Derek Bates.
The city has put out a request for proposal for an employment recruiting firm to find the right candidate to take over from Bates, who announced in early August he is stepping down from his job as the city's top bureaucrat, effective at the end of this year.
"Yes, it is a lot of money," said Green. "But when you look at that wage compared to many sister communities we compare to all the time, we are still paying him less than what other communities are paying theirs for the same quality and quantity of work."
To find somebody of that stature, who has the experience and know-how to implement the recommendations of city council and run all city departments, taxpayers have to be willing to pay a competitive salary. Even at that, Green says Bates' salary ranks at the lowest range of the pay scale when compared with other B.C. municipalities.
"The chief administrative officer of a municipality is a bit of a specialized position," said Green. "Public administration and governance are not the same in municipalities as they are in the private sector and in this level of position there are a variety of salaries you see across the province and across the country.
Bates was paid $202,000 in 2011. The five per cent increase he received this year bumped his salary to $212,600. By comparison, Nanaimo, which has about 84,000 people, pays its city manager $215,000, while top-of-the-scale Richmond, with a population close to 200,000, pays $283,000.
Bates has been city manager for the past six years, having replaced George Paul, who retired in 2006. The contract Bates signed in 2007 stipulated his annual salary increases would be a reflection of mutually agreed-upon wage increases given in other municipalities and public sector agencies.
Bates also receives 35 days of paid vacation, a $10,000 car allowance, and a one-time 10-day paid vacation leave. Green said council still has to make decisions on what it is prepared to pay the new city manager for holiday compensation and a vehicle allowance.
"[The amount of holiday time] will depend on the experience of the candidate that is chosen," Green said. "If you're a brand-new employee to the work force you're generally starting at the bottom of the vacation grade. If you're coming to an organization with 20 or 30 years of experience in the industry or background for which you're being hired for, your years of service are generally recognized in the vacation area.
"Everything is negotiable for the person we ultimately choose."
In the event Bates's replacement is not in place at the time he leaves, Green said an acting city manager will be named.