By Nicholas Johnson

The Des Moines City Council signed off Thursday evening (Dec. 16, 2021) on a 5 percent raise for City Manager Michael Matthias, bringing his base salary up to $235,824 from the current $224,592.

The council’s 5-2 vote came after an “overwhelmingly positive” performance review conducted by the council Dec. 9 and informed by written evaluations completed by each councilmember, with the exception of Councilmember Anthony Martinelli.

During Thursday’s meeting, outgoing Mayor Matt Pina cited several of Matthias’ accomplishments as city manager while Deputy Mayor Matt Mahoney stressed the value of Matthias’ institutional knowledge.

Matthias served as assistant city manager for two years prior to being hired as city manager in October 2016 at a base salary of $153,900. Matthias did not receive a salary increase last year in light of the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you get somebody with a tenure like Michael has had for the last several years, you also are paying for relationships,” Mahoney said. “Michael has strong relationships with many other entities as far as governmental, investors, developers as well as several people in the community, and that is invaluable. It’s worth something that you can’t put a price on.”

Councilmember Traci Buxton said she spoke with Sound Cities Association Executive Director Deanna Dawson prior to Thursday’s meeting.

“Deanna said if you’ve got a good city manager right now, it is hard to find one and if you like him, do everything you can to keep him,” Buxton said.

Martinelli, who voted against the raise, said that increasing Matthias’ salary is “absurd” and requested that the vote be delayed until January once newly elected councilmembers Harry Steinmetz and Gene Achziger take their seats, suggesting that they likely would not vote in favor of a raise.

“We do not need to give someone whose making a quarter of a million dollars a larger salary when he is making more than the entire human services budget of our city,” Martinelli said, suggesting that the money for Matthias’ raise be redirected to the city’s human services budget to “help some nonprofit organizations, help the citizens of the city.”

Outgoing Councilmember Luisa Bangs criticized Martinelli for not participating in the performance review process, saying “I take what you say as nothing.

“Regardless of your reason for not providing input, I just find it very odd that you would even comment and then suggest we delay it,” Bangs said.

Councilmember JC Harris, who also voted against the raise, said the council is currently incapable of determining Matthias’ true value to the city.

“The council does not have the information it needs to provide a rational evaluation of where we’re at and how well we could or should be doing,” said Harris, who expounded on his views in a Dec. 13 blog post. “I feel like the city should be doing better.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to remove a councilmember’s factually inaccurate statements made during the Dec. 16 Des Moines City Council meeting.