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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Next New London mayor to be among highest paid in state

    New London — The City Council has approved a major pay raise for the city’s next mayor.

    The $160,000 annual salary unanimously approved by the council on Monday is a 45% pay rate hike from the $110,000 Mayor Michael Passero earns now.

    The increase puts the mayor’s salary among the highest in the state and comparable, but slightly less, to what mayors earn in some of the state’s largest cities, including Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

    The council vote came with little public discussion and is the second pay raise for the position since the charter change in 2011 that replaced the city manager with a strong mayor.

    The mayor’s pay was $86,000 annually until the council approved a pay raise to $110,000 in 2018, prior to the election in 2019 in which Passero was elected to his second term. It was at that time that Councilor Efrain Dominguez, now council president, had suggested a bump to $165,000 to keep the position attractive and competitive. The council voted on the $110,000 figure instead.

    The new $160,000 salary takes effect when a new mayor is elected in December 2023.

    Passero, who was not part of the discussion on the pay raise, said on Tuesday he’ll likely seek a third term in office but it won’t be because of the pay. He said money was not a factor when he decided to retire from firefighting, forego his work as a labor attorney and announce a run for mayor in 2014.

    “My principal motivation was not the salary,” he said. “I’m more concerned about paying competitive wages for the people working for me ... for the benefit of the city.”

    A comparison by The Day shows that that the next mayor of New London, which has a population of about 27,000, will be among the top five highest-paid mayors in the state. In Bridgeport, the state’s largest city with a population of about 148,000, the mayor earns $161,018. The Hartford mayor earns $180,460. In Norwalk, with a population of 89,000, the mayor earns $161,393.

    City managers in some larger surrounding towns and cities also earn more. The Norwich city manager, for instance, earns $171,003 and the Town of Groton city manager is paid $180,224 annually. Stonington's first selectman salary is $99,327 in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

    Dominguez brought the pay raise request forward to the council this week. Monday’s vote by the council was 6-0. Councilor James Burke was not in attendance at the meeting.

    Councilor John Satti, at Monday’s meeting, had asked the council to allow time for public comment on the move, since the dollar figure of the salary was not listed on the council agenda. His attempt to halt a waiver of the three readings was rejected, however.

    Satti, who ultimately voted in favor of the pay raise, acknowledged Passero’s consistent presence at city events and meetings and his advocacy in Hartford.

    “Whoever it may be that’s elected, and I believe it will be our present mayor if he chooses to run for reelection, hopefully ... will continue to do the good work," Satti said. "For that reason I am supporting this.”

    Councilor Akil Peck said whoever is elected mayor in the city “should be paid accordingly.”

    “For many years the mayor was not paid adequately in my view,” Peck said. “I think it's time we step up and become competitive so we can get and retain good mayors.”

    In an email after the meeting, Peck said the council compared the New London salary with other municipalities and also looked at what department heads in the city were earning. New London’s chief administrative officer, for example, earns $101,316. School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie earns a $187,460 salary.

    Passero acknowledged the position of mayor is “all-consuming.”

    “My job is 24 hours a day seven days a week. I don’t know how other mayors or city managers do the job, but you have to be ready for that,” Passero said. “I don’t know that any amount of money really replaces your time. It’s definitely a job you have to put everything into.”

    As for a run at a third term in office, Passero said, “when I have to make that decision, I’m inclined to say ‘yes.’”

    “I attribute the success we’ve had over the last six years to the amazing team I’ve put together," he said. "I see no indication the team is slowing down.”

    g.smith@theday.com

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