by Aaron Burns

HUNTERSVILLE – Jill Swain’s annual salary as mayor of Huntersville is $10,000.

Town commissioners bring in $5,000 per year for their efforts.

Both officeholders’ pay scales haven’t changed in years. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane makes twice as much – $20,000 per year – and represents a population of 416,468, compared to the 48,048 residents of Huntersville.

Is it time for a change?

The town board discussed a potential pay raise for Swain and the seven commissioners in its Dec. 3 meeting, but reached no consensus.

Commissioner Melinda Bales said she wasn’t aware of the possibility of increase prior to the board’s discussion, but wasn’t against it.  The issue wasn’t raised in the town’s Dec. 17 meeting, but it could be brought up again in January.

During the Dec. 3 discussion, Commissioner Danny Phillips spoke against a pay raise.

Commissioner Ron Julian concurred.

“I don’t support a raise for town commissioners,” Julian said, “because in these economic times, we’ve got to be doing things for the right reasons. Now’s not the time to talk money with this job. We’re doing (our jobs) for the people.”

Julian is in favor of a raise for the mayor, however.

“The mayor has to represent the town and represent the vision of the town,” he said.  “There’s a lot that goes with that. You’ve got to do a lot for the town and be visible, so it’s about time we discuss a pay raise for that position.”

For Swain, it’s a tough issue.

“It’s always a difficult thing to talk about salary increases for public servants,” she said. “And each elected official puts in different amounts of time.”

Swain said there is value in running for office and that public service costs money in terms of gas, parking fees, registrations, board donations and lunches and coffees.

“Putting a value on public servants, in my opinion, also encourages our voters to choose very wisely on the candidates who’ll earn it,” she continued.”

The Huntersville mayor hasn’t received a pay increase since 2005, according to Town Manager Greg Ferguson.

Julian said the proposed raises would most likely be discussed at the town board’s 2013 retreat, which will happen in late January or early February. The issue would then get on the agenda and be up for a board vote.

“I’m going to stand pretty firm on (my opinion),” Julian said, adding that while the board seemed divided on the issue during the early December meeting, he believes a majority vote to pass the measure is possible as soon as the board brings up the pay scales.

Swain, in mid-December, was elected vice chair of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, a bipartisan cluster of the mayors of the largest 28 cities in the state. The group represents more than three million state residents. McFarlane, the Raleigh mayor and an Independent, will be the group’s chair.

“As a new legislative session starts, we look forward to working together on the issues facing North Carolina because what is good for our cities is good for our state,” McFarlane said in a release.

“Urban areas are the job centers of the State that drive our economy, and we will work cooperatively with the General Assembly to enact policies that support that economic development for today and the future.”

Swain said her focus as vice chair will be to enhance the state’s transportation system.

“As North Carolina continues to grow and shift to more urban centers, transportation improvements are key,” she said. “A major goal will be working with legislators to craft innovative and forward-thinking transportation strategies.”

The increase in Swain’s responsibilities since she took over in 2011 adds to the reasons she deserves a raise, Julian said.

“We need to talk about the cost of doing (the mayor’s) job,” he said. “There’s never been a change in pay in the six years I’ve been commissioner. I’d say it’s about time to have one.”

Facts about mayoral pay scales

• The average annual salary of a mayor in the U.S. ranged from $38,000 to $83,000 in 2011.

• The average annual salary of a mayor in Arkansas begins at $10,000.

• The average annual salary of a mayor in Georgia begins at $13,000.

• New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes $1 annually; the post pays $195,000 annually.

• Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa earns $232,425 annually.

• Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel earns  $216,210 annually.

• Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx earns $22,000 annually and $14,800 in benefits

– courtesy of, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg City Council