Salaries of Chattanooga's new department heads below that of their predecessors

Salaries of Chattanooga's new department heads below that of their predecessors

April 28th, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

James McKissic, second from right, newly named director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, speaks Friday, April 26, at the Bethlehem Center. Mayor Andy Berke, left, announced new City Hall roles, also including Lurone Jennings, second from left, who will be the administrator of the Department of Youth and Family Development, and Blythe Bailey, right, who will be the administrator of the Department of Transportation.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

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EXECUTIVE BRANCH SALARIES

* Chief of staff and counselor to the mayor: $125,000

* Chief operating officer: $125,000

* Senior adviser to the mayor/chief policy officer: $70,000

* Deputy chief of staff and chief innovation officer: $87,500

* Director of communications: $63,645

* Senior administrative coordinator: $42,000

* Administrative specialist: $35,000

Source: Chattanooga

A younger, more corporate staff put together by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is being paid less than his predecessor's staff, records show.

The salaries being paid to the new members of Berke's team raise no red flags with City Council Chairman Yusuf Hakeem.

"I would think all those would be in line," Hakeem said last week.

Berke was sworn in and reorganized the office of the mayor and several city government departments. He created new positions with a chief operating officer, chief policy officer and chief innovation officer.

The total amount his staff is being paid is $540,000 annually, compared with $580,000 annually for former Mayor Ron Littlefield's staff.

But there could be even more savings. Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for the mayor, said that because of the reorganization there is still discussion about whether new Chief Operating Officer Andrew Kean is technically within the office of the mayor or within a separate department.

If Kean's $125,000 salary is not counted, then that would mean Berke's staff is paid $165,000 less than the previous administration.

City records show the city's new chief operating officer and chief of staff are being paid $125,000 each. The deputy chief of staff comes in at $87,500, and the senior adviser and chief policy officer comes in at $70,000, according to records obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Littlefield had filled his administration with people who had years, if not decades, of government experience. In contrast, the new staff has only one person who served with a quasi-governmental agency. The rest of Berke's staff comes from corporate ranks.

Stone said Friday that Berke is looking at trying to save taxpayer money any way possible and plans to continue to look for savings as he starts to name his department heads.

"We performed an exhaustive review of the functions of city government, including each department, division and the 2013 budget, to ensure we are providing the most effective services at the best value to taxpayers," she said. "We will continue to review functions as an ongoing evaluation."

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.