The City of Gig Harbor’s salary commission voted last Friday to give Mayor Kit Kuhn a cost of living raise, but keep the salaries of council members at their present level.
The Nov. 1 decision came just a few days after the council said they’d be fine with that.
The commission voted to give Mayor Kit Kuhn the same 3.6 percent COLA city employees received in 2019. This increases his monthly salary from $,1830 to $1,895 beginning December 14.
Council members salaries will remain at $700 a month.
In the Oct. 28 council meeting, Council Member Spencer Hutchins introduced a resolution expressing council’s feeling that they are not seeking a compensation increase. It passed 7-0.
“Financial compensation isn’t and shouldn’t be a motivational factor for people to seek elected office,” Hutchins said.
Council Member Jim Franich praised the mayor during the city council meeting. He said Mayor Kuhn has put in countless hours during his term and wanted it known that he supports any pay increase the mayor receives.
“If any mayor deserves a little bit more than what the salary structure is right now, Mayor Kuhn should be entitled to that,” Franich said.
Two city council candidates, Michelle Matheson and Tracie Markley, stepped up to express their desire to keep council salaries level.
“As a citizen of Gig Harbor and a person running for city council I believe the money our citizens contribute to taxes should go to things like roads, infrastructure and our police,” Matheson said. “Council positions should not be held based on receiving a salary but rather a call to serve our community.”
Markley agreed. “As a candidate I would do this job for free,” she said.
Council member Ken Malich said he had a different perspective, as his experience on the council dates back to 1976, when the pay was $6 a month.
Malich said he worries that confining council to a smaller salary could result in discouraging qualified candidates with less money.
“It becomes more and more an indulgence of very well-off people who are financially secure,” Malich said. “The people who are not, are cut out from participating as city council members.”
Malich added that the amount council makes now is reasonable.
A member of the audience, Thomas Wick, said he feels the mayor should be compensated for doing the city administrator job, as well as his own. This position has been vacant since July of 2019 after Wade Farris resigned following a complaint by a woman employee.
Wick said since Mayor Kuhn has been filling in for the position, he should be compensated in order to hold the mayor accountable for any decisions made.
“In one scenario you are free and clear,” Wick said. “You can leave devastation in your wake and you are not accountable. In the other scenario you are accountable, so I am asking council to compensate Mayor Kuhn on the time that he has spent assuming Mr. Farris’s role.”
The council did not take up the suggestion.