City Council members are mostly in agreement that the $20,000 annual salary now paid to Mayor A. George Pradel, and the $5,000 that is added for his service as liquor commissioner, is reasonable compensation for whomever succeeds him. They also agree that the next mayor won’t be much like the current one.
“Whoever becomes mayor for the next four years is going to hear, ‘You’re not like George,’” said Councilman Doug Krause, who has challenged the five-term mayor for the job twice in the past and said each office holder fills the position in a distinct manner.
Discussing the position’s pay and benefits in a workshop Monday, the council reasoned that because the position is intended to require less than a full-time work commitment, they will not plan to make changes in the compensation policy. Any adjustments the council makes would take effect next year, after Pradel has stepped aside and a new mayor has been elected.
Not all felt strongly about maintaining the current compensation levels, however. Councilman Bob Fieseler said keeping the level where it is now could have the effect of enticing mostly those interested in “an encore career” to run for the city’s top elected office.
“These are people who have already hit their stride, made what they need to have for their families’ needs and are now in the twilight of that particular career, and now turning to public service,” Fieseler said. “I think the 25 (thousand) would restrict this pool of candidates to people, say, 50 and older for the most part, with a few exceptions for under-50’s who have made an amount for themselves where they don’t have to be concerned about continuing in that particular profession.”
Other council members expressed certainty that someone in the midst of a successful career could still manage to be an effective mayor in a town that adheres to the strong city manager model, as does Naperville.
“You have to pull out those places where the mayor is the chief executive officer, like Aurora, where Mayor (Tom) Weisner gets paid a six-figure salary because he’s the CEO, but that’s not the system that we have here,” Councilman Joe McElroy said, adding that he previously thought it made sense to increase the pay for Naperville’s mayor by about $15,000, but has changed his position.
Councilman Paul Hinterlong agreed that while it has earned the current mayor a favorably fond reputation as the city’s most ardent proponent, Pradel’s high visibility is due to his choosing to attend many activities, events and other functions in the community.
“That doesn’t mean the next guy will,” Hinterlong said, emphasizing that the post is designed to be a part-time job. “It’s what you want to make of it, even as a council member. … If the next mayor does half of what this mayor does, he’s going to be a busy guy.”
Council member David Wentz said it might make sense to reward that sort of effort.
“Whoever steps in has got huge shoes to fill. … If anyone who wants to even attempt to do justice to this position on the level that’s been done before, I think the commitment could merit a slight increase from where it is now,” said Wentz, suggesting a $25,000 mayoral salary would be reasonable.
Fieseler clarified his assertion that retaining the present compensation level might to some extent define the demographics of prospective candidates for the office, but suggested the job could be reduced to two designated days each week.
“To take up this responsibility as mayor, you just have to be available for some time,” he said, suggesting the base salary could be set at about $35,000.
According to the current liquor commissioner, however, the real hours involved in those duties might warrant another look.
“I will tell you that I spend a lot of time on the Liquor Commission. That $5,000 is well spent,” said Pradel, who noted that matters arise daily that involve the commission, even though they may not be of broad interest to the community. “It’s a big, big part of the mayor’s job, to be the liquor commissioner, and there’s a lot going on and we need to be on top of it, all the way along.”
Pradel said he thinks the mayor’s current pay is appropriate, acknowledging that is in fact a part-time job.
“The next mayor — this is just a personal (observation) that he or she probably will not continue with all the jobs that I, necessarily, put into it. You kind of self-make the position. You decide about how much effort you want to put into the whole job, so I think the compensation is fair. I think that maybe a little more would be fine, but I do feel that whoever takes the job is probably going to have a job of their own, a job outside of the profession here,” irrespective of his or her age, Pradel said. “I think whoever gets it is going to be driven by what we’ve done in the past, trying to keep up with what we have, so I look forward to passing the baton and I will help in any way I can to make that transition happen, but it’s going to be the new person’s decision which way they want to go.”