The mayor of Salt Lake City should get paid more


If we want experience in the mayor’s office, we have to be willing to pay for it.

(Jeremy Harmon | Tribune file photo) This file photo shows Salt Lake City Hall.

In my opinion, the mayor’s salary has always been too low, eliminating mid-career top leaders who have the leadership expertise to serve but cannot accept the low compensation for the position. Instead, these qualified individuals, who can bring their business acumen to the public sector, remain within the safety of the private sector.

If we want experience in the mayor’s office, we have to be willing to pay for it.

Salt Lake City has a history of electing new mayors who spend nearly their entire first terms learning how to run a complex capital city with more than 3,500 employees and a budget of nearly $2 billion. A constituency, budget and staff that is large sets Salt Lake City apart in the state and requires management expertise. In my opinion, these first-term mayors often lack the skills, talent or wisdom to lead effectively from the start. Many former mayors have been elected to a second term, with their hands-on training beginning to yield results. In almost all cases, their performance in the second term has improved dramatically compared to the first four years.

Wouldn’t it be wise for Salt Lake City to elect mayors who have leadership experience managing teams of people from the start? Inexperienced first-term mayors can cause millions of dollars in lost opportunities due to poor decisions or no decisions at all. Failing infrastructure, safety issues and homelessness issues being addressed by inexperienced leadership have already driven businesses and young families out of our capital. Without a vibrant business community, we will lose millions of dollars in tax revenue. Salt Lake City needs experienced leaders, and good compensation will help achieve that, as outlined in this 2008 study, which found that “salaries not only attract more candidates, but also better-trained candidates.”

Any private sector company with 3,500 employees and a $2 billion budget would certainly pay its CEO more than $168,000 in salary. Even with the 26% increase requested by the mayor, this would still be very low. We need to think strongly about the old adage that you get what you pay for. Without proper compensation, Salt Lake City will not attract the talent our city deserves.

I, as many know, have not been a big supporter of Mayor Erin Mendenhall. But I am a big supporter of Salt Lake City and it deserves the best leadership. Having a good compensation plan will go a long way in achieving this. This mayor is entering her second term, and I don’t believe for a moment that she hasn’t learned a lot and gained valuable experience that should help her in her second term. I know the negative thinkers – and there are many – will say that no one deserves a 26 percent raise. But again, you get what you pay for, and our city deserves and needs experienced leadership from day one. I believe that we should approve this increase for the office of mayor and all future mayors.

(Photo courtesy of David Ibarra) David Ibarra

David Ibarra is a leadership consultant, entrepreneur, speaker and author with a background in the hospitality, automotive and talent development industries. He lives and works in downtown Salt Lake City and ran for mayor in 2019.

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