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Pay cut for Santa Rosa’s new city manager


Santa Rosa’s next city manager will make $215,000 per year in base salary and deferred compensation, 6.5 percent less than her predecessor but nearly 40 percent more than she currently makes.

Kathy Millison

The city released its proposed contract with Kathy Millison on Wednesday, the day after the City Council formally offered the job to the longtime city manager of Clovis.

CLICK HERE to view a copy of the city’s contract with Millison.

The council is expected to approve the contract at its July 27 meeting. Millison, 58, would begin work Oct. 4.

She’ll likely take an immediate pay cut. Millison has agreedto take the same 5 percent salary reduction that the city’s executive staff has pledged to accept, according to the contract.

If those cuts are implemented before she starts, Millison would make $200,000 in salary and $4,200 in deferred compensation.

Millison is on vacation and did not return a call for comment.

Some council members had pushed for Millison to make less money, but that became problematic in part because several of the city executives she would supervise make salaries in the mid- to high-$100,000s, said city councilman Ernesto Olivares.

“You’re not going to do this on the cheap,” Olivares said. “You can’t have your city manager making the same or less than your deputy city manager or department heads.”

Olivares is part of the council minority that voted against Millison’s selection, citing a paucity of qualified candidates for the job. Olivares, John Sawyer and Jane Bender also claimed that hiring her put the city at risk of a big severance payout should the balance of power shift in November and a new manager hired.

The four-member majority has countered that Millison is an experienced, skilled executive with a strong track record of consensus building and financial stewardship.

But the three in the minority all said that while they disagree with her hiring, they will work with her.

“I am going to be voting against her, but if she is hired, I’m going to do everything I can to help her be successful,” Olivares said.

Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre said Millison’s willingness to accept a pay cut spoke to her management style.

“I’m hoping that when she gets here and she really immerses herself in our city and its structure, that she will lead by example,” Marsha Vas Dupre said.

The contract also contains significant protections against people playing politics with the city manager post.

It prevents the City Council from dismissing Millison without cause for five months after the Nov. 2 election, and three months before and after future city council elections.

The five months of protection was added in recognition of the fact that the council is currently split 4-3 and three council seats are on the ballot in the fall, City Attorney Caroline Fowler said.

The contract calls for Millison to be paid nine months of severance if she is fired by the City Council without cause.

Other terms of the contract include:

– $5,400 per year for car expenses

– Up to $12,500 in moving expenses

– Five weeks of paid vacation

– A $250,000 life insurance policy

– Two and a half weeks of sick time

– Two weeks of administrative leave

– The same package of health benefits received by the executive staff.

Sawyer said he knows that people sometimes are rankled by the salaries and benefits paid to public officials, but said he thinks the package is fair.

Santa Rosa’s former city manager, Jeff Kolin, made $230,000 in salary and deferred compensation when he left the city in January for Beverly Hills.

Millison currently makes $155,000 in Clovis, a community of 95,000 residents near Fresno where she has been city manager for 19 years.

Sawyer said he doesn’t begrudge Millison the 40-percent salary bump. “If I were Kathleen Millison and I was at her point in my career, I would do exactly what she has done,” Sawyer said.

By making the jump to the higher salary, Millison is making what will be a lucrative decision both in salary but also for her retirement, Sawyer said. Since retirement benefits are based on the highest annual salary a worker makes during their career, Millison will effectively be locking in higher retirement rates for the rest of her life by coming to Santa Rosa.

But if she can come here and work with the staff, council and community to solve some of the city’s numerous issues, she will have earned it, Sawyer said.

“If she succeeds, we all succeed,” he said.

5 Responses to “Pay cut for Santa Rosa’s new city manager”

  1. Scott P says:

    What A Farce!

    Public Servants have too high an opinion of themselves, too high of salaries that they determine, ridiculous health care benefits that no private sector employees get any more, and a ridiculous defined pension. These people are making themselves rich and we are the suckers for letting them.

  2. Hilary says:

    Yeah, I think managing Santa Rosa might be a little more work than managing Clovis. I hope she’d be making more money. Maybe if Santa Rosa wasn’t trying to hire on the cheap they’d be able to find someone with more bid-city experience.

  3. Dan says:

    I guess this is what happens when a council elected to build bike paths has to make serious decisions for which they were never prepared. We get what we elect.

  4. Dave Gladstone says:

    Well said Bill.

    Forgot to mention that it’s a purely political move by the majority to keep some semblance of control should they be ousted in November.

    An interim would have been the right thing to do, but as we’ve seen, this council doesn’t do what’s right. They do what’s politically expedient.

  5. bill says:

    does the Santa Rosa City council really think this is a smart move? this woman does not have the experience of a town this size….she gladly takes a job earning 40% more….sounds like poor decision making at the top because of fiscal incompetence…