Every Lehi City Council meeting includes a 20-minute citizen input window where residents are welcome to address the council to share comments, concerns or complaints on issues that aren’t on the evening’s agenda.
In a recent meeting, Lehi resident and outspoken advocate for Traverse Mountain, Rob Ludlow, proposed that the City Council conduct a review of the mayor’s salary and scope of work. He urged a compensation increase for the role.
“I wanted to speak about an issue that Mayor Howard Johnson raised in 2008,” Ludlow said. “He took a very unpopular position, to increase the mayor’s salary, as he wasn’t planning to stay on, so that it was commensurate to the work that was being done.”
Ludlow continued, “I think the idea was to have enough compensation to attract and retain world-class problem solvers. We’ve been very fortunate in having Mark Johnson, who is being overly generous with his time, but if you look at what he gets compensated on an hourly basis, it’s incredibly low.”
In his argument for the increase, Ludlow cited the city’s continual population growth and increasing city budget that currently sits at over $179 million, saying the city needs to rely on the mayor for long-term vision and collaboration with outside stakeholders.
“In this time of growth, I think it’s really critical to have more mindshare from the mayor, so they can secure regional funds, state funds, federal funds and look at creative financing strategies to build in open space and make sure transpiration infrastructure is in advance of growth,” said Ludlow.
“We should be benchmarking ourselves against a Provo, Orem or Sandy, because that’s where our growth is going to take us very shortly,” continued Ludlow.
Councilwoman Katie Koivisto refuted the proposal, saying, “This is definitely not a position where the compensation equates to the time and effort put into it. It’s a very selfless position.”
Koivisto continued with a countering opinion of where funds should be used, saying, “I feel our funds should go to those people with expertise. These positions (council and mayor) we have here are selfless positions. I think it is admirable to want to increase these salaries, but I would rather focus our funds to hiring the professionals.”
Ludlow challenged back in the discussion with concerns around the candidate pool that the current system draws.
“If we don’t look at compensation, what we wind up with is someone who is independently wealthy, or who is retired, or someone who is just insane enough as (current mayor) Mark Johnson, who works 80 hours a week, tries to keep a business afloat and still meets city obligations,” said Ludlow.
Councilwoman Paige Albrecht concluded the discussion by proposing that city staff conduct a review and analysis of the mayor’s salary. The proposal was seconded by Councilman Mike Southwick.
Koivisto stated her objection to the review and felt the proposal didn’t warrant staff resources.
The review will be presented to the City Council during the February work session and will include an analysis of the mayor’s salary, as well as a review of the current government structure that includes a part-time mayor and full-time city administrator.
Here are the current mayoral salaries with benefits and populations of similar cities to Lehi.
Lehi: part-time mayor, $23,953 plus $22,701 in benefits (69,724 population)
Provo: full-time mayor, $121,394 plus $66,246 in benefits (116,618 population)
Orem: full-time mayor, $62,363 plus $12,674 in benefits (97,828 population)
Sandy: full-time mayor, $127,618 plus $47,135 in benefits (96,380 population)
St George: part-time mayor, $50,000 plus $25,696 in benefits (89,587 population)
South Jordan: part-time mayor, $22,889 plus $29,982 in benefits (76,598 population)
Taylorsville: full-time mayor, $93,247 plus $30,696 in benefits (59,805 population)