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Hinesville council raises salaries for mayors, council
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Despite some vocal opposition from residents, the Hinesville City Council voted Thursday to raise the mayor’s and council members’ salaries beginning in 2012. Per the city charter, the present council and mayor will not benefit from the salary increase, unless they are re-elected for another term.
The mayor’s salary will be increased from $15,000 to $40,000 and the council members’ salaries from $7,500 to $20,000. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said the mayor’s job is a full-time position and said he works an average of 45 hours a week.
In a public statement, Thomas said raises were discussed last summer “in an open meeting” during a planning session on Jekyll Island.
The mayor said city officials are currently reimbursed for such expenses as food and lodging when they travel, but indicated time and effort is not fairly compensated.
Thomas said he and city council members answer calls from residents at all hours. He also stressed the many trips he recently made to Washington, D.C., to lobby for government funding after a fifth brigade at Fort Stewart was canceled by the Department of Defense.
“No other city that lost a brigade got any funds,” he said.
Thomas said lobbying efforts to gain $40 million in federal assistance, and saving $2 million in military construction funds on post, translated into saved local jobs.
“We also managed to get funds for 2010, 2011 and 2012,” he said. “We could not accomplish this with a part-time mayor.”
Hinesville resident Joe Stuart said the mayor and council were simply patting themselves on the back and added, “We’re nowhere near (mayoral) full-time employment.”
Stuart said in his opinion the council has not done enough to “fight blight” in Hinesville and said he wanted to see more improvement before elected officials considered raising their salaries.
“If I was Donald Trump and this was “The Apprentice,” you’d all be fired!” he said.
Military retiree Mike St. Onge questioned the rate of the pay hike. He also asked if city officials would consider giving up raises if the economy does not improve.
Thomas said it was difficult to compare Hinesville to other cities of similar size in Georgia because “we’re the only city of our size” outside the gates of a major military installation.
He said whoever is mayor next must keep precious contacts with elected officials in Washington, D.C., and the Pentagon.
Hinesville resident Larry Boggs said, in his opinion, Hinesville is not a metropolitan area as claimed by city officials.
 “This city is only 30,000 people — it’s not a metropolitan area. I was born and raised in Miami — that’s a metropolitan area.”
City Council Members Keith Jenkins (District 4), Kenneth Shaw (District 5) and Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier (District 1) agreed with the mayor, saying the mayor and council’s responsibilities have grown as Hinesville has grown.
“It’s not about the money,” Jenkins said.
He added the council carefully “thought out” its decision to increase salaries. He also commented Hinesville has not furloughed its employees as other American cities have done.
“When I ran for office it wasn’t for the money,” Shaw said. “This is my home and I wanted to give something back to the people.”
“When I first ran, I didn’t even know we were compensated for our services,” Frasier said. He said at some point the council and mayor should be fairly compensated for the job they do.
Frasier added the economy is projected to rebound in two years, when the next city administration is voted into office. He said he has witnessed how hard the mayor works, and added the city received $40 million in federal assistance largely due to Thomas’ efforts.
“It’s a small token,” Frasier said of the raises.
Stuart suggested the mayor and city council get the same raise as city employees receive.
“That would solve a lot of problems,” he said.
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