Public servants don’t typically sign up to hold public office because they believe they’ll get rich working in government. Most feel a sense of duty or dedication to their community. They want to help make it a better place.
When Sheridan City Council voted to lower the mayor’s salary to just $24,000 per year, though, they set the city up to be served by individuals who do not necessarily represent the average constituent in the city.
The decision to lower the salary was made in 2016 in conjunction with the vote to hire a city administrator. The idea was that if a city administrator handled the day-to-day duties, the mayor’s salary wouldn’t need to be as high. City council voted to cut the mayor’s salary in half from its original $48,000 per year number. The mayor still has plenty of responsibility, though, as the Sheridan City Council members pointed out in a guest editorial last month.
By decreasing the pay to $24,000 per year, the city council limited the number of individuals who can run for office without jeopardizing their family’s financial situation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Sheridan County is $53,914 and the per capita income is around $29,630.
By forcing our mayor to earn less than the average citizen in Sheridan County, we’re asking for wealthier individuals to run for office — individuals who don’t rely on that salary to support their families. To run a city the size of Sheridan, $48,000 per year is not exorbitant, especially when you compare it to the city administrator’s salary of approximately $140,000 per year.
Seeking public office through elections is already an expensive process; lowering the salary for a full-time mayor who should be spending countless hours advocating for our community eliminates the possibility of public service for a large portion of our city residents.
Is that what we want?