Talk on mayor's pay goes nowhere

ATLANTA --- Rep. Hardie Davis said he only wanted to start a discussion on whether Augusta should pay its mayor on par with other cities, but many of his colleagues say the timing is wrong.

 

Mr. Davis, D-Gracewood, said he has heard from people of all political stripes who say the mayor is underpaid compared with those in 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. We're simply creating a forum for discussion."

Mayor Deke Copenhaver's annual salary is $75,844.86, according to data provided by the city.

Mr. Copenhaver said he does not support the plan to raise his pay.

"I am totally and unequivocally opposed to any legislation that would increase the mayor's salary right now," he said "I am completely at a loss for the rationale."

Mr. Davis drafted a bill and was prepared to introduce it until sharing his idea Tuesday with three commissioners and Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta.

Mr. Murphy, the chairman of the local delegation, said Thursday that he doesn't think a recession is the right time to consider pay raises even if one is deserved, but he's 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.

"We've got people hurting right now. Some people don't have a job at all," he said. "I would be interested in taking a look at that, but I'm 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 might be the time for exploring the issue because it could be discussed dispassionately since a tight budget means it's 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 to 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," Mr. Tarver said. "The mayor position is a 24/7 position. You can't have any other employment; you can't have any other obligation."

Mr. Davis says he's not interested in putting Mr. Copenhaver in an embarrassing position or in running for the post. It's a matter of civic pride in the second-largest city in the state, Mr. Davis said.