"He really does believe in servant leadership"
COLUMBIA, Mo 12/8/15 (Beat Byte) -- With unanimous approval and lavish praise from Columbia City Council members, city manager Mike Matthes last night landed an annual salary increase to $165,000.
"We need to show Mike respect, and pat him on the back for the good work he has done," 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Trapp said. "This is a net win for the city."
The higher salary does not include Matthes' other perks: four weeks paid vacation; a $3,420 annual car allowance; $600 annual cell phone allowance; and $7,859 in deferred compensation.
Council members gushed over Matthes' work, while scolding critics for "insulting" comments, misinformed positions, and political posturing.
Two Council members also expressed fear of angering him.
"Mike's done a great job. He's a great manager," Trapp added. "The folks he manages have a lot of respect for his leadership. He's brought a lot of great changes to the city. Satisfaction with city services has gone up. Mike has honored his values and tried to steer the city in a positive direction. He really does believe in servant leadership."
"I certainly don't want to irritate the city manager."
-- Councilman Karl Skala
Other Council members agreed.
"I think he's doing good work," said 3rd Ward Councilman Karl Skala. "We appreciate the city manager."
"I very much appreciate the work of the city manager," added 4th Ward Councilman Ian Thomas. "We have to be concerned about other cities wanting to employee him, and what we would do if he were lured away."
Calling Matthes' salary "a bargain," Mayor Bob McDavid also worried about lucrative lures. "It's a complicated job and we must never underestimate the skill set it takes," McDavid said. "The salary market for a city our size is $200,000. Our city manager is a valuable commodity. He has the most important job in the city of Columbia."
All the kudos suggested Council members were unaware of widespread public dissatisfaction. Not so, they explained.
"There's some people who don't like the city manager's performance," McDavid explained. "We've heard insulting testimony."
"Mike's done a great job. He's a great manager."
-- Councilman Mike Trapp
"There were some rough patches a couple of years ago, but for me, he has really turned this around," Skala said.
Thomas cited union members angry over the top-level pay hike. "I have a concern about going against the will of Local 773, which sent us a very strongly-worded letter that they oppose this, and that they fight for very small increases for all their workers," he explained.
Trapp dismissed criticism of Matthes as misplaced.
"When Mike has made his mistakes, they have been political ones," he said. "When Mike has gotten sideways with the public, it's always been over political issues. Mike didn't think the Enhanced Enterprise Zone (EEZ) would be controversial. But he was from out of town. He just got off the bus."
Matthes "certainly can't be blamed for Columbia having the highest cost of living in the state," 5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said. "I don't think any of us control the cost of gas, food, goods and services. I don't think any of us on the City Council have much control over the cost of living."
Conflicting reports about the size of Matthes' raise prompted a correction from Skala, who said the city's human resources staff led Council members to believe he was making $150,000 when the figure was closer to $157,000.
"We were given information about Matthes' present salary the very day -- the very hour -- we were doing his evaluation," Skala said. "You can't read 25 double-sided pages and know exactly what the city manager's salary was. I assumed it was about $150,000."
As a compromise to the $165,000 boost, Skala suggested roughly $5,000 less. "That's a very interesting suggestion, and I'm going to think about it," Councilman Thomas said.
But discussion of a lower amount never materialized, with Council members expressing fear of repercussions.
"Under my first term, I was called into the office of the city manager and city attorney for having the audacity to ask when the electric utility was going to turn on the lights at the Daniel Boone Building," Nauser explained. "That goes to show how tightly the Council was controlled."
"I certainly don't want to irritate the city manager," Skala added. "We all have to get along."
In a troubling aside, Nauser also expressed relief that Matthes allowed the Council to do its job. "Under Mr. Matthes leadership, the City Council has had more latitude and abilty to direct the issues than ever before," she said.