Aberdeen salary task force

Aberdeen mayor Mike Bennett talks to the city's salary task force Wednesday evening. (BRYNA ZUMER | RECORD STAFF, The Aegis / August 14, 2013)

Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett told the city's salary task force Wednesday he thinks future elected officials do need a raise and he trusts task force members to come up with the appropriate amount.

Bennett was the final city elected official to meet with panel, which he and the four city council members formed earlier in the summer amid controversy over an ordinance that proposed significant raises for future occupants of those offices.

The task force will recommend if a salary increase is needed and, if so, how much; however, the mayor and council will have the final decision.

Bennett declined to comment on the recent ordinance proposing a 140-percent raise for the mayor and a 60-percent raise for the council members, explaining: "I don't know how to answer that because it's gone and it's done."

Nevertheless, he said he doesn't think the ordinance, which was tabled, was "unfair."

Asked whether elected officials need more money, he said: "Yes. What that figure should be is, I think, up to this group to look at."

The mayor's salary is $10,000 a year, and council members are paid $7,500. The positions are part-time.

Bennett agreed with some of the council members who have said their positions are jobs, not "philanthropic."

"I am being paid to do it by the city," he said. "When I come in, I am conducting business."

Bennett also noted, however, that the mayor's post remains part-time, at least for now.

"Certainly I am not doing a full-time job because, I'm sorry, $10,000 does not really motivate somebody to be here full-time, although sometimes it feels like I am here full-time," he said.

"The one thing that everybody needs to realize is the city manager is the chief operating officer and I am the chief executive officer," he said. "Eventually, yes, there will absolutely be a need for a full-time mayor here, putting in eight, 10 hours a day."

Bennett, who has been serving since November 2007, said the job involves more than what he originally expected.

"It's a complex job. It was a lot more than I anticipated," he said. "I knew that it would be one of those jobs. When I was fire chief, I didn't realize all the extra stuff that was going to be part of that, but you adapt and you do what you need to do to get the job done."

Bennett said his first few years were "really challenging," before he retired from his full-time job with the Maryland State Police in 2010.

He added that he believes the city is in "very good financial condition," is undergoing a lot of growth and will have $69 million worth of new projects coming into the city.

The salary considerations should take into account Aberdeen's specific needs, he said.

"For somebody to say that a salary that was in place 17, 18 years ago, however many years ago that was, that salary should be the same in today's market, that is just a ludicrous statement," Bennett explained.

"I think what we should look at with the present salary is, is that appropriate to go on ad infinitum? Is that going to go on forever?" he continued. "It's very difficult to compare municipalities against each other because they all have different things they are doing, they have different circumstances."

Landbeck, Elliott disagree