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The City Journals

Time for a pay raise? Mayor Trent Staggs says no

Jun 19, 2019 05:09PM ● By Mariden Williams

Mayor Trent Staggs wants the next mayor of Riverton to have a full-time salary but isn’t interested in one himself. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

Currently, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs is paid $21,000 a year and members of the city council are questioning whether it’s time for that to change.

"I do not think that $21,000 is enough for the amount of hours that he is putting in or is at all adequate compensation," said Riverton City Councilmember Tawnee McCay. 

These concerns arose amid city budget negotiations for the 2019–2020 fiscal year. McCay would like to see a citizen committee put together to examine the mayor’s salary and determine a more appropriate level of compensation.

"I kind of feel like I've been asking for this committee to be set up for the last six months,” McCay said. “I would prefer for it to be included in this year's budget. Either [the mayor] would need to be someone that's retired who could commit this kind of time, or someone that was independently wealthy. And I think it's great that we have the mayor that we have, but I know the amount of time he takes away from his family, and I don't think that we're being fair."

Riverton leaders already increased the mayor’s salary in January 2018, from $15,500—at that time, the lowest in the valley—to the current $21,000, which brought Riverton much more in line with what other mayors in the area are paid. 

“When I look at the current salaries—Riverton's $21,000, Bluffdale is $18,000, South Jordan's $22,000, Herriman's $14,000, Draper's $35,000—we're right there in the middle,” said Councilmember Tish Buroker. 

But there has recently been an idea floating round the council that if the salary isn’t raised substantially, good candidates won’t be interested in running for mayor—or in staying in office once they’ve been elected.

"That comment has always disturbed me—the comment that we won't get good people to run if we're not paid,” said Buroker. “I think about this community that we live in, where we have good people that spend inordinate amounts of time in religious positions that they are not paid for. They do it because they're asked. I would hope that that's the character in the integrity of the person that would run for mayor, that they would do it for those reasons. And I'm concerned, a little, that we may gain folks that would look at it and think, 'Oh, that is a nice addition to my salary.’”

"Since we just increased the pay, I'm not willing to vote for it this year," said Councilmember Tricia Tingey. "As soon as you start increasing the salary so people can go into this job for the money, then it doesn't become public service anymore. That's just my ideology on that. This is not a political job; it's public service, and public service does not mean a paycheck.”

Staggs himself, it should be noted, has stated that he has no interest in raising his own paycheck. 

"For the record, this isn't something that I asked for when I ran,” he said . “When I ran, I knew what the compensation was. That total comp hasn't changed as far as I'm concerned for me, and that's not something that I'm asking for.” But when he eventually leaves Riverton for whatever the next better thing is, he says he will advocate for full-time pay for the next mayor to take office.

“On my way out the door, I will advocate for a full-time mayor here,” he said. “If you're not involved in the conversation, you get left out, especially the way this county is formulated. We talk here sometimes about return on investment, and I'll tell you what, the level of engagement that a mayor can commit to representing a city and ensuring that we get our seat at the table makes all the difference in the world.”