Kent residents Pat Hanis, Todd Minor and Julie Miller are the members of the city’s new Independent Salary Commission.
The City Council approved the appointment of the three at its Jan. 17 meeting. The three will decide later this year whether the full-time mayor and part-time council members get pay increases, decreases or keep the same pay.
After what city documents describe as an extensive recruitment process over two months, Hanis, Minor and Miller were the only three who applied for the three-member commission.
The council in November approved the formation of the commission on a controversial 5-2 vote in an effort to increase pay.
Council members Bill Boyce, Toni Troutner, Les Thomas, Brenda Fincher and Zandria Michaud approved the formation of the commission. Marli Larimer and Satwinder Kaur opposed it, mainly because the council approved a status quo biennial budget for 2023-2024.
“We don’t do this because we get paid a lot of money, we do it for our city,” Councilmember Toni Troutner said at the Nov. 15 council meeting prior to the vote. “But when you compare our salaries and the mayor’s salary to other cities, we are just up from the bottom. I think it says something if we don’t put value on the work we do. We are not putting ourselves at the same level as other cities.”
Troutner said other cities have salary commissions that meet and compare salaries of their mayor and council with other cities.
Kaur said at the November meeting that with a status-quo budget the next two years and projected budget deficits in the following years, a raise doesn’t seem appropriate.
‘We don’t need to increase our salaries at this point,” Kaur said. “We can wait three or four years to see where the budget is.”
Mayor Dana Ralph makes $168,141 per year, according to city documents. Council president Boyce makes $18,105 annually. The rest of the council makes $17,171 per year. Currently, they each receive an annual 2.5% pay increase.
Hanis has been a Kent resident since 1982 and works as an attorney with Hanis Irvine Prothero in Kent. He is a Lake Meridian Water District commissioner.
In his application for the volunteer position, he said he appreciates the work that the city does and believes its citizens should be engaged in our local governments to help make the community a great place to live.
“I know the time and effort that city staff and elected officials put into their work in order to be successful,” Hanis said. “I appreciate the opportunity to apply for this position to make sure that we as residents are properly compensating those that work on our behalf.”
Minor, a Microsoft executive and owner of Nana’s Southern Kitchen locations in Kent and Covington. He lost a 2019 Kent City Council race to Larimer.
“My 15-plus years of experience in the business industry, my previous role on the Kent Parks and Recreation Commission and my current position on the Police Equity Board put me in the unique position to understand fair compensation and the role of elected officials,” Minor said.
Miller has been a Kent resident more than 40 years.
“The city of Kent faces big challenges including rising costs and public safety,” Miller said. “A talented and stable workforce to address these challenges is imperative.”
Hanis was appointed to a four-year term, Minor to three years and Miller to two years as the ordinance required that the initial terms be staggered.
The ordinance requires the first meeting of the salary commission to be within 30 days of the appointment of members. It also requires part of the duties of the commission will be to collect and release salary information from comparable cities with a population of at least 25,000, be located in King, Pierce or Snohomish counties and operate under a mayor-council plan of government. Residents also must be given a chance to comment on any proposed salary increase or decrease prior to a vote by the commission
City staff wrote in their proposal to form the salary commission that the 2.5% annual pay hike hasn’t kept up with inflation. Staff also noted that the cities of Auburn, Bellevue, Everett, Renton, Federal Way, Kirkland, Lakewood and others review salaries of their elected officials each year or every other year.
“It’s possible that salaries for Kent elected officials may have fallen behind those salaries paid by our neighboring cities,” according to staff documents.
The council in 2015 formed a five-member Independent Salary Commission to review pay of the mayor and council after then-Mayor Suzette Cooke had proposed pay raises. That commission approved in 2015 a 35% pay hike for the mayor, which boosted the annual salary to $138,000 per year from $102,192. It also approved the 2.5% annual pay hike for the mayor and council.
Part of the agreement to form that 2015 commission included its disbandment after making the salary changes as long as they included annual increases.