published Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Cleveland mayor's salary doubled to $24,000

Mayor Tom Rowland stands in front of the shops of downtown Cleveland, Tenn.
Mayor Tom Rowland stands in front of the shops of downtown Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — An effort to increase the annual salary of the Cleveland mayor from $12,000 to $40,000 ended with a compromise at $24,000 in the Cleveland City Council on Friday.

The ultimate 4-3 vote to double Mayor Tom Rowland's pay came in the fourth round, with one vote taken for $40,000, another for $30,000 and two at $24,000.

"This is getting to be ridiculous," said Councilman George Poe, who joined Vice Mayor Avery Johnson and Councilmen Charlie McKenzie and David May in passing the salary increase.

Councilmen Dale Hughes, Richard Banks and Bill Estes opposed the increase.

Hughes and Banks, however, did not oppose the increase in principle -- both fought to get more money for the mayor.

"Mayor Rowland goes way beyond the call of duty, and we all know that he has not been compensated [appropriately]," Banks said.

Rowland keeps the lines of communication open with the community's leaders, and much of what he does goes uncompensated or unappreciated, Banks said.

May said he got a lot of calls from people saying $40,000 was not enough for Rowland. However, many callers also expressed reservations about setting the salary that high, he said.

"Most of the calls I got were concerned that we were creating a salary," May said.

He cited callers who expressed approval of a $24,000 salary, but not something so large that would encourage people to run "for a job" instead of the opportunity to serve the community.

May, McKenzie, Johnson and Estes all opposed the final passage of the $40,000 proposal.

Johnson, who had supported setting the mayor's salary at $40,000 during its initial passage on Aug. 11, voiced concerns similar to May's.

There's "no guarantee" that a higher salary will attract a mayoral candidate of the same quality and caliber as Rowland, Johnson said. Rowland was elected mayor in 1991. The increase would take effect in 2016.

Banks argued that a better salary for the mayor's position was a good way to attract qualified and dedicated candidates.

Also, Johnson made a failed attempt to revive a prior proposal to give car allowances to the mayor and City Council members.

According to a car allowance proposal presented Aug. 11, the mayor would receive a $700 monthly car allowance and council members would receive $350 each per month.

Since no car allowances were passed at that time, they could not be attached to the final passage of the proposed salary change and would have to be handled separately, City Attorney John Kimball said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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