City Manager Paid to Stay

WHEELING – City Manager Robert Herron said Tuesday he won’t interview for a new job in Kalamazoo, Mich., after City Council agreed to increase his annual salary by almost $15,000 to keep him in Wheeling.

The raise to $110,000 per year represents a 15.8-percent increase from the $95,370 salary he had been set to earn during the fiscal year beginning July 1. Herron’s announcement came after Mayor Andy McKenzie and council members met behind closed doors for about 15 minutes to talk about a personnel issue – a discussion in which Herron did not participate.

He had been one of six finalists to take over the soon-to-be vacant city manager’s position in Kalamazoo, a city with about two and a half times more residents than Wheeling, but one struggling to emerge from significant financial difficulties.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Herron said McKenzie and council indicated they would support the salary increase.

“I truly appreciate this action, and as I have stated on numerous occasions, I love this city and would only consider leaving for the right opportunity both professionally and personally,” Herron said. “I have officially withdrawn my candidacy for the Kalamazoo city manager position, as well as any other city that has expressed interest in me.”

Herron said he reached out to Kalamazoo officials Tuesday afternoon to inform them of his decision. He had been set to interview before Kalamazoo City Commission members next week, and also had an interview set up in North Carolina, although he declined to name the city.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said Wheeling is fortunate to have a veteran, professional city manager and believes Herron deserves much of the credit for keeping the city’s finances sound during poor economic times.

“I think it’s vital that we keep good people and that we invest in our people,” McKenzie said.

Herron’s raise is effective immediately, although City Council took no action after emerging from the executive session. As city manager, Herron has the authority to adjust the salary of all city employees – including his own – without council approval, provided there is enough money in the budget.

Herron said the additional $2,307 cost of his raise through the end of the current fiscal year likely won’t require council to pass a revision to the 2012-13 budget, but the approximately $15,000 annual impact to the budget beginning with the upcoming fiscal year probably is significant enough to require a revision. Although Herron does have broad authority to set salaries, council does have some oversight of those amounts because members must approve the city’s budget each year.

Retiring Kalamazoo City Manager Kenneth Collard makes $138,000. It’s unclear what Herron may have been offered there, as information from the firm hired to recruit candidates notes the starting salary is open and dependent on qualifications.

Herron said he is honored to have been among Kalamazoo’s short list of candidates but that “these are also exciting times for Wheeling.”

“I like being here. There are a lot of things going on, and … I’m truly looking forward to continuing to be a part of that,” he said.