Our Opinion: Pay grades a city issue


You get what you pay for in city government, and you don't get what you don't pay for, as is apparently the case for Pittsfield in its fruitless search for a community development department director. Salary issues cost the city a promising candidate for the vacant position, prompting Mayor Daniel Bianchi to say he will take a look at pay for all city department heads.

Margo Wheeler, the director of Community Development for the city of San Bernadino, Calif., which has a population of more than 200,000, was offered the position and seemed eager to accept it, but could not take what was assuredly a salary cut to $73,000 annually. A previous impressive applicant had turned down the job in part because of the salary. Ms. Wheeler, who had a development position in Las Vegas, would have brought experience and fresh ideas to a key position.

Deana Ruffer, who left the post last September to accept a similar job in Chatham demonstrated the significance of the job through her successful efforts to improve downtown and other sections of the city during her tenure. This is one position that can actually make money for the city, as Ms. Ruffer did by successfully applying for and winning a variety of state and federal development grants.

The directorship is a three-year position, and given the insecurity of a government post it is often necessary to pay more to persuade someone to pull up roots. Communities are also competing with one another for quality people. Saving money when it comes to department heads can cost money in the long run if the right individual isn't found for the job.


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