By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa Mayor Ernesto Olivares is giving up his $14,400 annual salary in recognition of the city’s budget challenges and employee concessions.
Olivares, a retired Santa Rosa police lieutenant, said he has seen the impact budget cuts have had on his former city colleagues and felt an “obligation to do my part.”
“I believe I have to lead by example,” Olivares said Wednesday.
Olivares, who is up for re-election in November, said he didn’t make his decision or time the announcement for political reasons.
Instead, he said it was a “personal choice” he made after realizing city employees were again being asked to take concessions — and will need to do so again — while he enjoys an enviable public pension.
“I realized my situation is different,” Olivares said.
Olivares, 54, worked for the Santa Rosa Police Department for nearly 30 years, retiring from the city in 2008 just before he was elected to the council. He earned a pension of $128,440 last year.
As a councilman he made $9,600 per year and got a salary bump when he became mayor in 2010.
He will continue to receive health benefits through the city, paying $4,209 per year while the city pays $16,836 annually, according to Human Resources Director Fran Elm.
Olivares first said he intends to forego his salary at the beginning of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Councilman Gary Wysocky, who frequently disagrees with Olivares, noted that the move only affects Olivares’ salary, not his pension.
Wysocky later suggested the move was politically motivated, adding that Olivares could save the city a great deal more money if he’d get tougher on containing pension costs.
“If he really wants to show leadership and meaningful solutions, perhaps that’s where he should look,” Wysocky said.
But Olivares, who said he grew up “dirt poor” in Mexico and was lucky enough to have a successful career in law enforcement, said witnessing first hand the impact of cuts on employees made him want to do something.
“It’s not easy sitting in closed sessions dealing with people’s lives,” Olivares said.