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Baltimore spending board approves $250,000 salary for city administrator, making him one of city’s highest-paid employees

Christopher J. Shorter is the choice of Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott for the job of city administrator.
Christopher J. Shorter is the choice of Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott for the job of city administrator. (handout / HANDOUT)

Baltimore’s spending board approved a $250,000 salary for the new city administrator Wednesday, a figure that will make him one of city’s highest-paid employees.

The position of city administrator, championed by Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott even before he announced his candidacy for Baltimore’s highest office, was approved by voters this fall.

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On the eve of his inauguration earlier this month, Scott said he would nominate Christopher J. Shorter, an assistant city manager in Austin, Texas, for the post directing the Baltimore City government’s day-to-day operations.

His appointment needs the approval of the City Council.

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The city’s spending board approved Shorter’s $250,000 annual base salary, as well as $9,556 in moving expenses, without discussion.

Only Police Commission Michael Harrison has a higher base salary, at $275,000 a year. The city’s next-highest salary of $238,772 went to Democratic State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, according to figures from mayor’s office.

Other employees, including Assistant Fire Chief Mark Wagner, took home more gross pay in a year than Harrison, but none were paid a higher salary, the mayor’s office reported.

When he was City Council president, Scott introduced a charter amendment to create the administrator position. He touted the role as politically neutral and a way to “professionalize city government.”

The council passed his proposed amendment, letting voters decide on the measure in November. About 78% of voters cast ballots in favor of it in the same general election in which they elected Scott.

When he named Shorter as his pick for administrator and Michael Huber as his chief of staff, Scott said the trio would work together closely to “fix what’s broken in city government and restore the public’s trust.”

Shorter was one of four assistant city mangers in the Texas capital, where he was tasked with overseeing the areas of health, the environment, culture and “lifelong learning.” He had served in that capacity since February 2019 and before that in a number of roles for Washington, D.C., including public works director and chief of staff for the District of Columbia health department.

Shorter will begin working Jan. 11 for Baltimore as acting city administrator until the City Council makes a decision on his nomination, according to the spending board agenda.

Shorter’s salary was just one of several pay-related items the board took up Wednesday. It also voted to enact salary increases for the mayor, council president, comptroller and City Council in 2021. Each is entitled to a 2.5% pay increase if any union employees received a raise in the city budget, according to a 2007 law.

Scott’s salary will increase from $189,453 to $194,189.

Salaries for Comptroller Bill Henry and Council President Nick Mosby, both Democrats who sit on the Board of Estimates with Scott, will rise from $125,447 to $128,583.

Scott, Henry and Mosby abstained from votes Wednesday regarding their respective salaries.

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Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, a Democrat, will see her salary go up from $80,646 to $82,662.

Salaries for the 14 members of City Council, also all Democrats, will increase from $72,966 to $74,790.

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