ATLANTA -- Rep. Hardie Davis said he only wanted to start a discussion on whether Augusta should pay its mayors on par with other cities, but many of his colleagues say the timing is wrong.
Davis, D-Gracewood, said he has heard from people of all political stripes that the mayor was underpaid compared to the state's other cities like Macon, Columbus and Savannah.
"Even in these challenging economic times, I simply wanted to start the conversation with a broad audience as opposed to a vacuum," he said. Nothing would be done in this legislative session. Were simply creating a forum for discussion.
He drafted a bill and was prepared to introduce it until sharing his idea Tuesday with three commissioners and local legislative chairman Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta.
Murphy said Thursday morning that he doesn't think a recession is the right time to consider pay raises even if one is deserved, but hes not opposed to talking about it, noting that the delegation last week turned down a request to give raises to the city marshal and coroner.
Weve got people hurting right now. Some people dont have a job at all, he said. ... I would be interested in taking a look at that, but Im not interested in pursuing a pay raise for the mayor right now.
Others in the delegation took a similar position when questioned Thursday.
Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said a recession may be the time for exploring the issue because it could be discussed dispassionately since a tight budget means its not possible now anyway.
There is some concern that the salary of the mayor is artificially low and that by keeping it artificially low that is in essence sending a message to the community that only people who are eligible or qualified for run for mayor are those folks who are rich or those folks who have sufficient personal wealth that they can accept that low a salary for the requirements of the duties, he said. The mayor position is a 24/7 position. You cant have any other employment, you cant have any other obligation.
Davis says hes not interested in running for mayor or put current mayor Deke Copenhaver in an embarrassing position. Its a matter of civic pride in the second-largest city in the state, Davis said.