Is $71,100 a year a reasonable salary for Portland’s popularly elected mayor, who has no executive control over day-to-day operations of the city?

That’s the question Mayor Ethan Strimling has put to the City Council, which recently approved significant raises for its three employees: City Manager Jon Jennings, City Clerk Katherine Jones and Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta.

“We made adjustments to the three other positions,” Strimling said. “I think they should look at it. We want to make sure the salary is competitive and good people run.”

Strimling said he’d like to see the mayor’s compensation package include a $500 monthly vehicle allowance, like Jennings’. The mayor and councilors already are eligible for travel and mileage reimbursements.

The city is looking to increase the salaries of its non-elected, nonunion staff, following Strimling’s first year in office, which was marked with clashes between the mayor, councilors and manager as well as controversial decisions to hire an assistant and to build new office space for the mayor.

Strimling said he originally made the request last fall, when the council was considering raises for its three employees. He recently sought an update from several councilors.


City Councilor Justin Costa said in an April 21 email to members of the Nominations Committee, which oversees the performance and salaries of the council’s three employees, that “the mayor has requested an increase in his salary.” Strimling maintains he asked only that his compensation be reviewed. Ultimately, the councilors decided to refer the matter to the Finance Committee, because the councilors don’t formally evaluate the mayor’s performance.

“I see it as a broad policy discussion,” Costa said in an interview Friday. “You never want to have the impression the mayor’s compensation is anything that could be affected by political views or policy disagreement or other stuff.”


City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who leads the Finance Committee, said the committee will probably take up the request Thursday, noting that it will be challenging for the city to find comparable salaries for Portland’s mayor, which is a hybrid system that empowers the mayor to help set city policy through the council, but does not give him any control over staff or operations.

“I think we should have that discussion for the budget,” Mavodones said. “I can’t imagine we would adjust his salary downward.”

The elected mayor’s position was created in 2010. The City Charter says the mayor must be paid a minimum of 1.5 times the median household income for Portland, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, but that does not preclude the mayor from earning more.


The charter calls on the council to adjust the salary prior to nomination papers becoming available for the mayor’s position, but that did not occur in 2015, while also allowing the council to adjust it during a mayor’s term.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, the median household income for Portland was $46,280, which would put the mayor’s salary at $69,420. The 2015 income information is the most recent available.

If that is the rubric used by the committee, then Strimling’s current salary of $71,100 already exceeds the minimum set forth in the charter.


When Michael Brennan was elected mayor in 2011, he was paid $64,400 a year. Throughout his four-year term, Brennan did not have dedicated staff support like Strimling, who convinced councilors to hire a special assistant to the mayor who was paid $47,387 for a partial year in 2016. (The assistant’s full annual salary is $64,000 per year.)

Like councilors, the mayor has received the same Cost of Living Adjustment as other nonunion employees.


As a result, the mayor’s salary has increased by 10 percent since 2012.

Over that same period, the council’s stipend has increase from $5,899 in 2012 to $6,321 in 2016.

Strimling said he believes councilors should also receive a pay increase.

“I do think the councilors should be paid more,” he said. “There’s a lot of work they do and they should be compensated to meet the expectations of their constituents.”

Last year, the council approved a 12 percent, or $18,500, raise for Jennings, who now earns $166,500; a 17 percent, or $14,000, raise for Jones, who now earns $92,960; and an 11 percent, or $13,400, raise for West-Chuhta, who now earns $131,250.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.