Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes received a 17 percent salary increase Monday by unanimous vote of the city council.
Holmes, 44, now earns $199,000 a year, up from $169,659.
The salary adjustment, announced toward the end of Monday evening’s council meeting, was made after the council reviewed what leaders earn at other public agencies.
For example, Holmes, who oversees approximately 950 employees and an operating budget of nearly $350 million, was earning the same as Elson Strahan, president of the nonprofit Fort Vancouver National Trust, who oversees 18 employees and a budget of $3.8 million. With the raise, Holmes will still earn significantly less than Wayne Nelson, general manager of Clark Public Utilities.
Nelson, who earns $245,000 a year, oversees 361 employees and an operating budget of $464 million, according to a chart provided by the city.
The salary adjustment puts Holmes ahead of Todd Coleman, executive director of the Port of Vancouver, which has 100 employees and an operating budget of $86 million.
Coleman earns $191,000 a year.
The median salary of city managers at selected smaller cities in Washington — Bothell, Issaquah, Sammamish, Spokane Valley and Kirkland — was $182,004.
The city manager of Bellevue earns $250,000, while the Tacoma city manager earns $235,373.
Holmes, the only city employee for which the council sets compensation and can fire, bears responsibility for the daily operations of city government, as well as carrying out city policies set by the council.
“We think you’re doing an exemplary job in your responsibilities,” Mayor Tim Leavitt told Holmes on Monday. In addition to managing city employees and working with the seven elected councilmembers, Holmes also interacts well with the business community and neighborhood associations, Leavitt said.
“I am humbled by your generosity and honored to serve as the city manager for Vancouver,” said Holmes, who had to move with his wife and their two children from their home within the city’s urban growth boundary to one within city limits as a requirement of his job. “I very much appreciate your confidence and look forward to doing the best job I can for as many years as you’ll have me.”
The city manager position has been underpaid for a number of years for a number of reasons, Leavitt said.
“It’s time to fix that,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt sounded as if he was going to announce the new salary, but was interrupted by Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, who said the council had not reached a decision in executive session and was going to discuss the salary in public.
The council had just returned from a 45-minute executive session to continue a discussion about Holmes’ performance as city manager, which had started June 9.
Councilors Jack Burkman, Bart Hansen, Alishia Topper, McEnerny-Ogle and Larry Smith were effusive in their praise of Holmes.
McEnerny-Ogle, along with the rest of the council, had heard from Holmes earlier in the evening that the city’s structural deficit means the council will have to enact the 1 percent property tax levy every year though 2020 and raise utility rates. But Holmes has done a great job leading the city out of the recession and put together a wonderful team of department heads, she said. The city has reduced its debt and has a fully-funded reserve.
Smith, who has been with the city since 1991, has seen his share of city managers.
“We certainly want to keep you here. We think that’s important,” Smith said.
Hansen made a motion to adjust the salary to $199,000, which was seconded by Burkman.
Councilor Bill Turlay had only one word when Leavitt asked for his thoughts.
“Concur,” Turlay said. After Holmes expressed his gratitude, Turlay did have a quip.
“You’ll have to make it work in the budget, you know,” Turlay said.
The council rated Holmes a 9.1 out of 10.
Holmes was promoted to city manager in October 2010 after spending six months as assistant city manager. He has worked for Vancouver since 2007, when he was hired as the city’s economic development director.
Before he worked for Vancouver, he served as planning director for Washougal and Battle Ground and was Battle Ground’s city manager. Between his time in Battle Ground and Vancouver, he spent a year as chief financial officer for MacKay & Sposito, a private-sector engineering and consulting firm.
His starting salary as city manager was $167,152.
Reviewing the city manager’s salary was part of a larger project. The first city compensation and job classification review in a dozen years led to salary range adjustments in January for many nonunion jobs. The next group of employees to be reviewed will be the balance of the non-uniformed workforce, including represented positions such as mechanics.