ST. PETE BEACH – The City Commission’s happiness with the work of City Manager Wayne Saunders was reflected June 27 when commissioners awarded the city’s third-year chief executive a contract extension and an 8 percent salary increase.
Effective Oct. 1, Saunders’ salary will increase from $152,250 to $164,430, making him one of the county’s most well paid city managers. His contract is “for an unspecified term” with annual evaluations tied into to salary increases.
Saunders, who will be 68 on July 11, was hired in October 2014 to replace former city manager Mike Bonfield and has since set the city’s financial course in a more positive direction.
Saunders has received raises totaling $17,250 over the first three years of his tenure and will make an additional $12,180 during his fourth year. Altogether, he has received salary increases totaling $29,430 (21.8 percent) over four years.
“I do enjoy working here and I think we have a great team with ya’ll (commissioners) and the staff,” said Saunders. ”There are a lot of things I would still like to accomplish.”
“I don’t think we could have dreamed of having a more outstanding person to lead our city and guide us,” said Commissioner Melinda Pletcher. “Hire and retain. That’s our job – to hire and retain the best person we can in each of our three areas. We did the hiring part. Now we just need to make sure he’s still happy to come to work here because every single day he’s here, he saves us so much money.”
“There’s something to be said for consistency in an organization,” said Commissioner Ward Friszolowski.
Pletcher suggested awarding a 10 percent salary increase because “he saves us what 10 percent of his salary is frequently, all year long.”
Commissioner Terri Finnerty said the current cost of living figure is 3 percent and last year the city awarded Saunders a 5 percent increase.
“We can’t below that. That’s for sure,” said Finnerty. “It should only go up. So it depends on how much we want to go.”
“He’s saved us a lot of money,” said Commissioner Rick Falkenstein. “He’s taken us to an advanced level that it would have taken us another 10 years to achieve. If it comes down to 5 (percent) or 10 percent, I would favor 10 (percent).”
Mayor Al Johnson said he favored 10 percent, but Friszolowski cautioned that other employees may view it negatively.
“You don’t want to compare it to other people, but you’ve got your department heads and other employees,” said Friszolowski. “So you’ve got to question how it’s going to be viewed. I have no problem with 5 (percent) or 6 (percent), plus maybe a little more than that.”
Commissioners later decided to make it 8 percent.
Terms of Saunders’ contract remain the same. Should he decide to leave, Saunders will need to give the city 120 days written notice. Should he be terminated, the city would owe Saunders a severance package of 20 weeks pay.