Mayor, Council strongly support City Manager pay raise despite social media flak

Mayor Matt Pina

By Jack Mayne

City Manager Michael Matthias’s pay raise got unanimous Des Moines City Council approval Thursday night (April 11) as Mayor Matt Pina defended the action after a minor storm on Facebook criticized the actions of a week earlier.

A week earlier Matthias’ salary was approved to increase to $199,000 at a meeting that had been claimed was unannounced ahead to time, spurring a citizen outburst and recriminations.

Mayor Matt Pina said the meeting was announced publicly, the same as every other official Council session.

The pay raise problem
Pina said Thursday night that the problem began when, on April 4, the Council unanimously approved a new contract for City Manager. The pay increase was approved “after a comprehensive review.”

The previous city manager, Tony Piasecki, retired in October 2016 and then-acting City Manager Michael Matthias shortly thereafter was voted the permanent city manager.

His starting pay in 2016 was $153,900, the same that Piasecki earned. At the time he also was provided 80 hours annually of both sick leave and vacation. At the time, Mayor pro-tem Victor Pennington said Matthias is being paid about $20,000 less than some other cities are expecting to pay for a city manager.

Pay comparison
Now some say Matthias’ $199,000 will make him the highest paid city manager around. A Washington Citizen’s Commission salary comparison showed that Burien City Manager makes $169,956, Highline School Superintendent Susan Enfield gets more with a three-year contract with an annual salary of $220,000. The Legislature pays the governor $177,107, but he gets a house and staff including drivers. Other perks for the governor include pay and security while running for president.

Success or failure
Pina said hiring the city manager, who is the chief executive of the city, is the responsibility of the City Council and the “city manager’s role is intertwined with the success or failure of our city.”

“Evaluating Mr. Matthias’s performance is inevitably linked to evaluating the city’s performance as a whole,” said Pina, adding the evaluation by the Council of the city manager “is also a key component of the council’s oversight of the government’s responsibilities.”

Scheduled public meeting
The Council made its annual performance review of the city Manager on March 28, said the mayor, and then met the next week “at a scheduled meeting at the beach park dining hall, and we did vote to approve the contract based on the exemplary results of the performance evaluation.”

“This meeting was open to the public and there were members of the community present,” Pina said. “Additionally, the agenda was prepared and available to the public on the prior Friday. This is the process for every Council meeting. We also recorded the meeting’s audio and it was available on the city’s website the following day. At the meeting, the Council approved the city manager’s contract by a 7 – 0 vote.”

The action was not intended “to exclude any visibility into any issue,” Pina said.

He said with the initial hiring of Matthias in 2016, the city could not pay the prevailing wage for a city manager – around $200,000 – because the city was on the verge of bankruptcy, but his “unique dedication and career make him an ideal fit for the city of Des Moines.”

Now the city is on firm financial footing, and can afford the increase, Pina said, adding that many people took pay cuts to come to work in Des Moines “because they want to be part of what we are doing here in our government.”

The mayor said the city manager could be making more elsewhere “but he has chosen us.”

Councilmember Luisa Bangs

Bangs says manager runs city
Councilmember Luisa Bangs endorsed the mayor and said “until you get behind the scenes, you have absolutely no idea how difficult it can be to make sure that things run well. We are not day-to-day people, we don’t run the city. The city manager runs the city.

“Looking across at other cities in King County, we are doing a dad-gum good job because some of these other cities, all have gone ‘how in the world can they possibly keep their citizens and their economic development going. We don’t have that issue here.”

But the job is not easy, said Bangs, and Councilmembers “are not doing this for the money, we are doing this for the city, we are doing this because we live in this city.”


7 Responses to “Mayor, Council strongly support City Manager pay raise despite social media flak”
  1. JC Harris says:

    The mayor and some of the council members made a number of comments, designed to show the city manager how much he means to them both professionally and personally. But unfortunately many of them ranged from the fairly silly to the outright dangerous.

    What I was taught about customer service is that, if people are unhappy, it’s an opportunity for management to educate and learn. The mayor and the council did quite the opposite, literally scolding the public. This has become a pattern of criticising residents for not knowing what they’re talking about when the council does only the absolute minimum to engage with residents as to what is going on in the city–and then only on issues that show them in the most positive light. If you want to stop the negative public comments, perhaps try a bit more pro-active public engagement. Your police chief does it, so why not the council?

    And when it comes to the airport issues–one area that Mr. Matthias has definitely not done a good job, Council Member Back went so far as to suggest that if the City Manager had only been on the job back in the 90’s he would have been able to stop the 3rd Runway! REALLY? Look, there’s hyperbole and then there’s hogwash so deep it makes one realise that the speaker has no idea what they’re talking about. And that whopper alone should make it clear to everyone watching that regardless of whatever else Mr. Matthias may have accomplished in his 3 years at the helm, he has definitely -not- educated the Council as to the reality of our city’s problems with Sea-Tac Airport.

    Mr. Back is more than welcome to learn some real history about the 3rd Runway by contacting us at

    • resident in des moines wa says:

      Moved here since 2012. Very disappointed so far. nothing improved to lively city.
      Still empty the mason building. and public utility bills went up and billed for parking of Marina. It seems more city budget than before, but still not good for people who pay tax and living in Des Moines. Waling street littering, downtown is dead.
      Hope at least the king county shuttle bus between Marina district to Angle lake station for good, not for 2 years.

  2. Frank says:

    SeaTac: $168k, Puyallup $173k

  3. Martin says:

    vote out all incumbents! the council gives the manager almost as much as the president makes and then condescends to the public who has an issue with it. disgusting

  4. Patrick Nardo says:

    So easy it is to criticize and find fault with out having sufficient factual background information to determine what a city employee’s worth to the community is worth. We have a highly competent city manager, who could very likely earn his present pay raise by relocating to anther city. We have noted, personally, that Michael Matthias does not work an “eight hour day”, as many might believe. He has left, on more than one occasion, a community dinner, to “get back t work”. How, dear fellow citizen, do we compensate fairly, a city manger who steps into two million dollars of a “shortfall” in a city that even has a bad credit rating, and brings it back to a value of on hundred millions? Who knows of a city manager that stays in position for actual love of the city, when it may be better elsewhere?
    We are blessed with the person of Michael Matthias, and the ones complaining, are likely just not well informed as to our city’s management or financial situation. Remembering how badly we were some years ago with a poorly managed economy in Des Moines, we feel gratified for two main items: each and every member of our council earned and received our votes, their choice of city manager is how we have recovered and are gaining in prosperity. It is good to read complaints, but should they not have viable substance? My complaints resonated, as yours should, when wrong doing is evident. Soon we will vote, and this is when we can “vent” satisfaction, or unhappiness with the Des Moines leadership. In the meantime, Michael Matthias, please accept our heartfelt thank you for our present status.

  5. Patrick Nardo says:

    Election 2020 has begun now, in Des Moines, with four candidates vying for three positions. Three are incumbents with one new candidate, Anthony Martinelli, challenging Robert Back for position #06. The incumbents seeking re- election are; Robert Back, Luisa Bangs, and Jeremy Nutting, all of whom have been part of the magnificent team for Des Moines’ economic restoration.
    Our choice and support for Rob Back is based on his competency in adapting into a team which had already begun the fight to avoid imminent bankruptcy, and potential annexation. Rob, as he likes to be called, came into office un-contested, when nobody wanted anything to do with a “sick city”. Things changed when our Des Moines Council replaced disappointment with promise, and we were literally flooded with council “wannabees”.
    Rob Back so far with $1000 from our Washington Association of Realtors (They know a good thing when they see one) which represents 24% of contributions so far. Individual voters account for 76% and of this amount 68% of contributions are from Des Moines residents. While money does not indicate popularity, it does point to a good start for Rob’s victory. Anthony Martinelli is mostly subsidized out of his own pocket, so far, but does have 7% support from within Des Moines.
    Robert Back was well prepared for entry into this important position, which now seems centered on making our city cleaner and quieter. Working with Sheila Brush and the “Quiet Skies” organization, Robert Back has appeared with Senator Karen Kaiser in Olympia, expressing the views on the topic of aircraft noise and air pollution. His management skills as a business owner/operator, gives him a “leg up” on the expertise of managing the business affairs required of Des Moines. Equally important, is his ability to work in unison with our council as a team member. Vote with us for a continued Des Moines prosperity Rob Back, has your back, Des Moines.

  6. Melody says:

    Patrick Nardo what a joke when you say ” Rob, as he likes to be called, came into office un-contested, when nobody wanted anything to do with a “sick city”.

    Robbie was uncontested because the councilman before him had to resign in disgrace and he did it around filing week. because Robbie is friends with those on the council they gave him the heads up, no one else had time to prepare or file. he stole it.

    the whole council is one big club and it needs to be broken up!

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!