Positioning

Comparing city manager salaries in Palm Beach County – Palm Beach Post

future-dyanmics

RIVIERA BEACH — When Riviera Beach City Manager Jonathan Evans was offered his job back 17 months after he was fired from the same position in September 2017, part of the deal he negotiated with the city was a $200,000 base salary – an increase of $21,000 from his previous salary.
Evans got that along with a $190,000 settlement and a reputation-clearing public statement by the city that he was not fired but left by mutual accord. Tens of thousands of those dollars went for his lawyer’s fees, and the rest were meant to compensate him for months of unemployment.
After he was hired, Evans defended the huge pay increase.
“I believe, if given the opportunity, folks will see the work product will speak for itself,” he said in May 2019. “I’m not coming there with the intention of looking for a handout or a golden parachute. I’m looking to come there for an opportunity to work, and work as hard as I can, to where we become the envy of Palm Beach County.”
Read more: Riviera Beach, Palm Beach County officials mark groundbreaking of $35 million affordable apartments
And: Three design firms bid for new Riviera water treatment plant that will replace 1958 facility
Fast forward three years later, and Evans’ salary stands at $220,667 with a car allowance of at least $500 per month.
Riviera Beach’s city council has appointed its chairperson to begin negotiations with Evans on a possible extension of his employment contract.
On the surface, it seems like a large salary for a city of 37,604 residents with a median household income of $48,228, according to the latest U.S. census figures. That’s significantly lower than the U.S. median household income of $67,521.
But Evans’ salary package is in line with the compensation of top government managers in Palm Beach County, The Palm Beach Post found in a review of what executives make in the county’s largest cities, towns and villages.
Mayors may have the historically prestigious title, but city managers are ultimately the ones who make the big bucks.
City managers, who oversee hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees and who craft budgets that stretch into the billions, pull in big salaries that continue to swell.
Of the executives whose salaries were examined by The Post, only one  executive makes less than $200,000 per year, The Post found.
Jupiter’s interim town manager, Frank Kitzerow, makes $174,761 per year with a monthly car allowance of $500. But Kitzerow appears poised to make much more if he is officially hired as town manager.
A draft contract for Kitzerow, discussed during a May 17 Town Council meeting, would pay him $225,000 per year and increase his monthly car allowance to $650.
Shawn Reed, Jupiter’s public information officer, said some council members raised concerns about aspects of the contract, which will be discussed again during a June 7 council meeting.
The Post sought and received salary and car allowance information for top managers in each of the 11 villages, towns or cities in Palm Beach County with a population of at least 35,000 residents. The newspaper also obtained salary and car allowance figures for Palm Beach County Manager Verdenia Baker.
Excluding Kitzerow, Lake Worth Beach City Manager Carmen Davis makes the least among the government managers at $200,000 per year with a monthly car allowance of $462.
Palm Beach Gardens City Manager Ron Ferris, who has held the position for 21 years, is the highest-paid city manager, making $314,487 per year with a monthly car allowance of $650.
Not including Kitzerow’s pay as interim city manager, the average annual salary for the city managers is $243,850. That average includes the $249,288 annual salary Boynton Beach City Manager Lori LaVerriere made before she was fired in April.
Baker makes more than any of the city managers, $322,525 per year, with a monthly car allowance of $500. The county government Baker oversees is vast, including more than 5,000 employees, with a budget of $6 billion to cover services for the county’s 1.5 million residents.
But The Post found that the size of the city, village or town isn’t directly linked to a manager’s pay.
Evans, for example, makes more than managers in Royal Palm Beach, Lake Worth Beach and Greenacres. Each of those places have more residents than the 38,125 who call Riviera Beach home, according to 2021 population estimates from the University of Florida and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Faye Johnson of West Palm Beach, the top manager in Palm Beach County’s most populous city, makes $269,294 per year with a $500-per-month car allowance. Two other managers, Leif Ahnell of Boca Raton at $303,480, and Ferris of Palm Beach Gardens at $314,487, make more.
Based on the population of the government the managers oversee, Evans is making the most, pulling down $5.79 per resident. 
Raymond Liggins of Royal Palm Beach, making $213,932 to manage a village of 39,144 residents, is getting paid $5.47 per resident. Ferris is making $5.26 per resident, and Andrea McCue, city manager in Greenacres, is making $4.83 per resident.
Also: ‘Reimagine Riviera Beach’ plan coming together: $1.5 million approved; new City Hall site set
Pay isn’t the only way top government executives are compensated.
The managers are expected to be everywhere in their area – sometimes all at once, it seems – and car allowances have become a standard means of making sure the manager can get where he or she needs to go.
Each manager whose compensation was examined by The Post had some type of car allowance, from the taxpayer-funded use of a government vehicle to the $800-per-month car allowance provided to Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes.
The $500 monthly car allowance that’s part of Baker’s compensation package is typical. Four of the interim and permanent managers had a $500-per-month car allowance, and Davis’ $462 monthly allowance is just shy of that figure.
Beyond pay and car allowances, top government managers also get ample retirement packages.
Evans’ contract calls for Riviera Beach to make installment payments to him an amount equal to 12 percent of his base salary. That money, deposited into a brokerage account, is in lieu of Evans’ participation of a deferred compensation plan. He is also required to participate in the state retirement system at the senior management service class.
While the pay and perks are generous, the demands of top management jobs are steep.
They are expected to oversee – or appoint someone to oversee – complicated union contract negotiations, lease deals, facility construction and programs aimed at helping residents with a variety of social challenges such as housing and employment. 
They are expected to be accessible to the residents who pay their salary, and they must carry out those functions knowing that a handful of elected officials can terminate them.
LaVerriere made clear she understood that bargain when she was fired in April after nearly 10 years on the job.
“This isn’t a shock,” LaVerriere said at the time. “The world is not ending. I will be just fine. This is usually what happens in the profession of city management, so I certainly don’t take it personally.”
Like LaVerriere, Evans is also familiar with the vicissitudes of elected officials. Now in his second stint as city manager in Riviera Beach, he was fired in 2017 after only six months on the job.
His settlement after he was fired banned him from reapplying, but, in 2019, a new council voted to undo that prohibition, paving the way for negotiations and Evans’ eventual return.
Since he was hired back in 2019, he has been eligible for raises.
He has received strong job reviews from city council members and remains popular among many residents, who credit him for moving the city forward on a range of what were once seemingly intractable problems, such as old and moldy city facilities and the need for a new water treatment plant.
Evans does not have unanimous support among the city’s five council members.
Two – Douglas Lawson and Tradrick McCoy – voted against the contract that reinstated him, and both men recently voted against having Council Chair KaShamba Miller-Anderson serve as the point person in negotiations on a contract extension with Evans.
Miller-Anderson was chair in 2019 and was the point person on Evans’ contract for his reinstatement.
McCoy has said he believes Evans makes too much money, and he has raised other concerns about the manager’s leadership, criticizing him, for example, because council district lines have not been redrawn despite significant population changes in the city.
Evans has argued that it is up to the council to direct him to oversee a redistricting plan, direction he has not yet received.
Lawson said he rejects the notion that he opposes Evans’ continued tenure as city manager. He said he believes he is better positioned than Miller-Anderson to negotiate Evans’ contract, given his experiences in the business world. 
Arguing that another council member should get a chance to negotiate on behalf of the city, Lawson said he wanted to push back against the narrative that he opposes Evans.
“I, for one, will go on the record and state I absolutely want to negotiate a deal that’s going to make sure we keep Mr. Evans as long as possible,” he said.
Despite Lawson’s push, the council voted 3-2 to keep Miller-Anderson as the point person for negotiations on a new contract with Evans.
Wayne Washington covers West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and race relations. E-mail tips to wwashington@pbpost.com.

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