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Tacoma: City manager cashes in on $35,000 per year pay raise

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Nov. 11, 2010 at 2:24 pm with 61 Comments »
November 11, 2010 5:35 pm

After symbolically forgoing a raise last year because of the recession, Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson this week cashed in on a big pay hike due to him – almost $35,000 per year.

The 17.4 percent raise in annual pay — triggered by a national study showing the economy is improving — bumps Anderson’s base salary from $200,450 to $235,373.


The raise is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, meaning that on top of his bigger new salary, Anderson will receive about $32,000 in back pay for this year.

“I appreciate the city council’s commitment to bring me to market as they have and will with everyone else in the organization,” Anderson said Wednesday. “I have to remain committed to earning it every day and working hard to make sure I’m worth it.”

The pay raise comes amid the city’s push to fulfill a promise made two years ago to bring all city employee pay to the 70th percentile of market wages, based on a consultant’s study of Tacoma’s pay rates compared to those in other cities and in some cases the private sector.

It also comes at a time when the area’s unemployment rate is high, local budgets are getting slashed and Anderson is seeking a wage freeze for all city employees, beginning next year.

Had he wanted to, Anderson could have taken a pass on his pay raise again.

He did so in March 2009, volunteering to forgo a raise recommended for him under the pay study. Given the recession and the city’s uncertain budget situation at the time, Anderson had said it would be better “fiscally and symbolically” not to accept the pay raise then.

Instead, the City Council added language to Anderson’s contract that froze his salary “until such time that the National Bureau of Economic Research announces two consecutive quarters of growth.”

The Cambridge, Mass.-based research organization determines, among other things, when economic recessions and recoveries occur. The nonprofit often makes such declarations well after such changes in economic conditions are underway. In September, the NBER issued a report indicating two straight quarters of growth – the trigger for Anderson’s pay raise.

As a pre-approved contractual issue, the pay hike was an administrative action made without city council approval. When Anderson indicated he wanted the raise, the city legally had no choice but to honor his request – or break his employment contract.

“We didn’t’ have a debate about whether he should continue to voluntarily give up his raise,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said. “The triggers were in place. Plus, we’ve already made the promise to bring every employee’s pay to market.”

Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson’s pay raise records

To help the city balance a coming budget that’s $40 million less than the last one, Anderson has proposed that once all employees get raises per the pay study, the city will seek to freeze wages.

Two union-represented bargaining units have yet to agree to city-offered raises, but all of the roughly 940 non-union employees already have gotten such hikes. Averaging about 8 percent, those raises were made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009 – a year earlier than when Anderson’s pay hike kicks in.

“I am the last unrepresented person (to receive a raise),” said Anderson, noting his last raise occurred in July 2008.

Councilman Ryan Mello, who joined the council this year – after Anderson’s contract had been amended – said the council should have hinged Anderson’s pay raise on locally-based economic factors.

“I wish they would have negotiated something different,” Mello said. “Something real tangible to the City of Tacoma that showed the people here are doing better, not some indicator put together by academics in Washington DC.”

“These are tough times,” Mello added. “I do understand that people are going to have some heartburn when they learn about this. I get that.”

Strickland, one of the four remaining council members who approved the pay raise trigger, said the NBER is a well-respected organization that provides comprehensive financial analyses based on a host of variables.

“Bringing a CEO to market is never a popular decision no matter when you do it,” she added.

The previous hourly pay rate for Anderson, 64, who was hired in 2005 after serving as city manager of Des Moines, Iowa, was $96.37. That ranked him as the sixth highest paid among a dozen other city managers and administrators from similarly-sized American cities analyzed in the 2008 pay study.

Anderson’s new hourly rate of $113.16 places him fourth on that list, which ranges from the highest paid city administrator in Reno, Nev., making $122.64 per hour; to the lowest paid administrator, earning $60.57 per hour in Spokane.

“I think that’s a good salary,” Strickland said of Anderson’s new pay. “It really is market-based.”

Even with the raise, Anderson isn’t the highest paid city employee. That distinction goes to Tacoma Public Utilities Director Bill Gaines, whose $136.54 hourly pay rate garnered him $290,262 in 2009, city pay records show. In fact, before his raise, four TPU employees were paid at a higher rate than Anderson.

Leave a comment Comments → 61
  1. BLAKEASH says:

    Must be nice….I took a 10% pay cut a year and a half ago along with 70 other employees @ our company

  2. gonefishin69690 says:

    I’m just shocked and really don’t know what to comment here.

  3. ctaylor2 says:

    What, does he not read what he is asking others to do. it seems that City Managers in Tacoma always loose sight of what is going on. There will be a lot more said about this.

  4. Perspicacious1 says:

    Wow, and others in state government took a 10% pay cut and they couldn’t afford it at only $32,000 per year….. Not to mention all the people who lost jobs in both private and public sectors…….I wish I would have learned creative financing when I went to college…..that way during a recession, when everyone else is going back to the basics of NOT spending, I could spend WAY more than I make.

    And you wonder why people are fed up with governement????????

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    That’s an obscene amount of money. The 200,000 he made last year is an obscene amount of money. The pay for useless Gubment Jerk-Offs is an excellent to start reducing the debt.

  6. BlaineCGarver says:

    My military retirement did not go up last year or this year. Bite Me…..

  7. Why are we paying Tacoma’s City Manager $ 200K plus perks and medical?

    This is nuts.

  8. First_Lefty says:

    Keep those union workers in line.

  9. donny253 says:

    Bring back “Ray” Corpus Remmber him? What guy :>)

  10. ussmidway says:

    That is absolutely pathetic. When the economy is so bad, high unemployment rate, pay cuts to many just to keep their jobs; he wants to freeze wages, making cuts in services; and yet to make himself look good, he turns done his raise last year and now it is all retroactive to January 2010. He needs to go!!!

  11. PolarBear53 says:

    Where does the city think they are going to get the money to pay for this?

  12. tacomajoe says:

    This man has earned every penny of this raise. Tacoma is the greatest city on earth, and he is single-handedly responsible for that fact.

    All you haters need to focus on University Place. At least Mr. Anderson is not building a Towne Center.

  13. sunup500 says:

    Now all Tacomans have been gang raped by the city council.They give each other lavish perks and raises and golden parachutes like Corpuz got . The natural reaction to this should be outrage and recalls and voting the pieces of dung out. A good old class action suit brought by the citizens against these bums when they try to collect their ill gotten gains would be a good place to start. How dare they compare their wages to the private sector? If you want private sector pay……good luck with finding the position in the private sector. This is outrageous in so many ways.

  14. m9078jk3 says:

    His salary is getting closer to the same salary as the President of the United States ($400,000 per year).Also just his pay raise ($35,000) is higher than many individual’s income for a year.The city is having financial difficulties now we know why.

  15. jeffstmc says:

    Really, Mayor Strickland? “Market based”??! Not THIS market.

    How much easier life would be if only I made HALF this much… AND was only working ONE job. How embarrassing.

  16. tomwa007 says:

    Utility rates are going up, we need to pay the City Manager or maybe it is just the parking meters?

  17. frankiethomas says:

    He clearly didn;t forego his raise then if he now going to get it retroactively – he just deferred it. It should be reported that way.

  18. lewiswells says:

    Eggzactly tacomajoe, Russell has doubled its workforce and at least a dozen new companies are coming to TTown. All thankx to our underpaid and unappreciated city manager.

    Why I’ll bet there are plenty of other cities who would pay Mr Anderson a million dollars for his expertise and services.

  19. This city can never do anything unless it’s for the benefit of the city council, they’re a joke, collecting a salary from the city (us) and taking on such weighty matters as smoking in Wright Park. As for the City Manager, this guy seems just as bad as Corpus he was already making too much before he so graciously didn’t take the raise last year. We need to vote out each and every council member and find some that really want to work for the citizens of this city.

  20. tacomaguy30 says:

    “triggered by a national economic study showing the economy is improving”

    I’d sure like to see that study! Just how is the economy improving, and in what way does that justify a 17.4% pay increase?

    And bring the pay “to market”? What a joke. The whole process is essentially a shell game.

    This is shameful. He is asking libraries to close while accepting a huge raise and back pay?

    And $60.57 per hour in Spokane? Isn’t Spokane a larger city than Tacoma? Yet his pay is nearly double that of Spokane?

  21. Say Lewis Swells, in case you didn’t know Russell left town for Seattle. Better keep up with current events pal

  22. mariposa328 says:

    Booooo…I don’t even make that much in a year. Must be nice!

  23. Lewis Kamb says:

    FrankieThomas wrote:

    He clearly didn;t forego his raise then if he now going to get it retroactively – he just deferred it. It should be reported that way.”

    FT: Your comments would be true if Anderson’s raise this week had been retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009 — not 2010.

    But, as reported:

    “… all of the roughly 940 non-union employees already have gotten such hikes. Averaging about 8 percent, those raises were made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009 – a year earlier than when Anderson’s pay hike kicks in.”

    Thus, because he did not take his raise in 2009, Anderson did forgo a year’s worth of back pay he could have gotten had he done so.

  24. t_Johnson says:

    This is a sad day. Government workers already make twice as much as private sector employees and can’t be fired (very easily). But then again, we elected these BOZOS.

  25. guess I have a topic for my next cartoon.

  26. Time to replace the city manager. He’s reached the top of his pay grade. Let a local person have a shot at it. They couldn’t do any worse.

  27. Lewis Kamb says:

    tacomaguy30 wrote:

    I’d sure like to see that study! Just how is the economy improving, and in what way does that justify a 17.4% pay increase?

    The national economic study that triggered Anderson’s pay raise is included in the documents I posted in the story above.

    The city’s compensation study of non-represented employees, including Anderson, can be found here: http://bit.ly/bYBg9G

  28. kevin22262 says:

    I like Eric Anderson and believe that he has been a good city manager for Tacoma.

    But… a 35k pay raise AND retro pay of 32k!? Sorry … but this is BS! Wrong time and waaaay too much!
    …. IF this is being based on other city managers pay and on CEO pay … then we are sure to see huge pay raises for years to come. Have you seen the pay for corporate CEOs lately?

  29. It cost us about half a million bucks to get rid of Charlie Milligan. How much is it to get rid of Anderson? All he’s done is deal with downtown parking. About the only problem we do not have. And then there is Jack Wilson, our Metro Parks director. He makes more than Governor Gregoire. He gets nice regular raises and car allowances – the economy be dammed. It’s nice and quiet for him in the castle over there.
    What is it with Tacoma? Low self-esteem seems to make us pay big so we get somebody from somewhere else to work for us? The glass museum did the same when they first opened. She turned out to be a disaster and it cost a ton just to have her move away. Let’s stay local and hire local talent. We are a city, fer cryin’ out loud. Act as such! Stop hiring consultants from the east cost or Scandinavia or California to tell us things we are ready know. For example that Tollefson Plaza is a miserable failure and that we don’t have a parking problem.

  30. They don’t understand the the “study” of market wages is very simple and is done without a consultant. You see if you get qualified people to come to work for what you offer to pay them. That doesn’t appear to be a problem-1400 people applied for one meter reader job. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2009/04/21/715710/among-1400-applicants-new-meter.html . Instead they compare with some other government’s pay scale that was “negotiated” between an employee’s group and the politicians they paid to elect. It must be that new math that is rocketing local test scores to the top.

  31. jacknojack says:

    Anybody want to E-mail his office ?

    Here is his e-mail. Eric.Anderson@cityoftacoma.org

    I like many others in tacoma are really hurting, this story along with Utillity Raises coming soon Are killing the middle class here in Tacoma.

    Just look at BELL city CA and The JAKE FEY dubble dipping Issue
    No wonder people are Pi$$ed.

  32. itiswhatitis says:

    So King Eric wants market value. Guess what, the unions want market value also. Any chance of the unions voting to forego their raise (it was slim already) were erased with the raise King Eric received. From the unions to King Eric, bend over and take it like the overpaid manager you are.

  33. I am printing this article out and also saving it as a pdf for eternity. I shall never forget.

  34. toastmaster says:

    Myself, along with thousands of other state workers are taking our first of eight furlough days this month. That is thousands of people in our state who just received a pay cut and will be spending less in the economy and the economy is improving? And before I get lumped in as a “lazy state worker”, I work hands on with the dangerous mentally ill and earn every penny I make – and no, just anyone couldn’t do my job.

  35. BWHaaaaaaaaaaaaa !

    What a riot !


  36. auwing1978 says:

    I hear Washam is starting a recall action

  37. entrepreneur says:

    When Democrats rule….You dear Tax Payer pay. Notice that they publish this after election day.

  38. aranciata says:

    Typical of a City in decline!

  39. ttowneastside says:

    Did the last paragraph escape anyone? Why does a department head earn more than the city manager? I have lived in Hilltop for over 15 years, and I can tell you that no other city manager has done a better job than Mr. Anderson at cleaning up our city. He has earned every penny.

  40. Toastmaster, Be glad that you have a job! I have been unemployed since February 2008. My unemployment ran out last March, I have applied for hundreds of jobs, still no luck.

    Mr Anderson, You should be embarrassed to collect your salary, NOBODY needs over $200,000 a year to live a decent life. I have lived very well on (in the recent past) less than $25,000 a year. There are hundreds of homeless people living on the streets of this city and you sit up in your ivory tower raking in the cash. Shame on you Mr. Anderson!

  41. frankiethomas says:

    Lewis I stand corrected. In my utter disbelief at the 17.4%, and the phrase “the economy is improving”. . .I’m afraid I jumped the gun.

  42. frankiethomas says:

    Can anyone find a study that says the economy is improving? This is the sunniest report I can find –

    “Economy improving, but still hurting
    By: CNNMoney.com Senior Writer Chris Isidore

    New York (CNNMoney.com) – Even if the economy avoids falling into a double-dip recession, the next year will probably feel like one anyway, a CNNMoney.com survey of economists showed.”

    Wow that sounds . . . not good.


  43. rainrider says:

    20,000 dollars per month? I drove down Ruston Way the other day and it was like driving down a third world country’s road system. Fix our roads, educate our children and keep us safe. Eric Anderson, you do none of these. I hope you choke on a chicken bone!

  44. Real delicate to announce this on Veteran’s day. How many veterans have been foreclosed on? Or are plain homeless? Mr. Anderson, you are indecent.

  45. Why is anyone surprised?
    I am not excusing the contract – but come on, folks, I doubt anyone here would forgo the 35k and insist someone else get it.

  46. bbobtee27 says:

    Hilarious! He was just in the paper talking about the 120 Union pukes not seeing the real picture on the comparable salaries? most of you backed this wonderful man? Now we see his retro is more than all 120 will get, then he gets another $35K in 2 months? WOW! Really people?

  47. Dude’s raise was more than I have made this year! I need that job.

  48. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Eric – don’t even talk to me about anyone in the union or anyone else not receiving a 2% pay raise – you are an absolute hypocrit!!! I know you will try hard not to smile when you deposit that first check!!

  49. JohnnyModerate says:

    I hate to say it, but we can’t blame Anderson for this, he’s just playing the same game we all do in our own jobs. No one on this board would decline this kind of raise in any economic climate.

    If you want to blame anyone, blame the elected officials who approved this obviously moronic contract provision.

  50. Whoa folks… keep in mind that the salaries of IT consultants, lawyers, and more are greater if not double the hourly pay of Mr. Anderson. The position of City Manager is a HUGE responsibility. His job never turns off. While it’s hard to comprehend that kind of money for those of us making a tiny fraction, we are done with work at the end of our day, and we are not responsible for well over a thousand employees.

    And, while it is terrible to lose a job as many of you have said that you have, keep in mind that because of Mr. Anderson’s fiscal responsibility, NO lay-offs occured at the City, one of our largest employers in Tacoma. Now that would have been disastrous, as it has been in several other cities.

    Finally, when they say “market-rate”, they do include Tacoma’s market as well as cities of its size to determine that number. This is not a situation where someone in DC pulls a number out of thin air as indicated by Mello. These types of adjustments are made in both the private and public sector as a way of achieving fairness and maintaining a competitive edge. Otherwise, you grossly underpay and all of the qualified people work elsewhere.

    And really – ask yourself if you would have turned down a market-based raise two years in a row? I think not.

  51. This at a time when they are in (somewhat hostile) negotiations with a union over that same pay raise for IT employees? (Who make more like 46k a year?)

    I understand that he *can* do this, but good grief…

    Would I have turned down a market-based raise two years in a row? Would I have turned down an offer to be ruler of the universe from space aliens?

    It’s the “public sector” for a reason, as in, the public gets to comment on it so you’d better be ready to answer for these decisions…

  52. ttowneastside says:

    well said kfp… I can’t really speak for anyone else. But I have lived in Tacoma for over fifteen years. All I know is how this city – hilltop especially – has changed for the better since he became city manager. As you pointed out, his job never turns off. Would hate to have his job. Don’t think I would want my hard earned tax dollars to go pay some consultants (who do absolutely nothing to meet my needs as a citizen) for a local study on Tacoma’s economy as the young and inexperienced Council Member Ryan Mello suggested. Think that would cost more, way more, than $35,000. What’s fair is fair. I think the city manager has earned his pay.

  53. ttowneastside says:

    47,000? The last database the Trib published showed that IT employees make way more than that.


  54. toastmaster says:


    Not complaining – I’m grateful to be employed – don’t get me wrong. Making a point about the supposed “imrpoving” economy and the states largest workforce receiving a pay cut that will last at least the next 7 months and the impact that will have on Tacoma and our state’s economy.

  55. toastmaster says:


  56. I personally think he’s worth every last nickel (and probably a lot more). I’m a small business owner and I don’t mind paying a guy a large salary if he earns it. Tacoma is definitely getting a return in its investment with Eric Anderson.

    Does anyone remember Ray Corpuz? Can you imagine where we’d be if we had another crook like him running the city?

    Keep making the tough decisions Mr. Anderson. Don’t give in to the union demands. We are lucky to have you as our city manager.

  57. reformedliberal says:

    I’m wondering… is this job ever up for competitive bids? Because I can bankrupt this city at least as well as Mr. Anderson can, and I’ll do it for $75K/year.

  58. kmich91261 says:

    Mr. Anderson is doing a fairly decent job in my opinion based on the circumstances. It is some of the other managers that I wonder about and why they get paid for what they do. For example I know somebody in Tax & License that stated since the Tax & License manager came on board in 2003 the only personnel hired is women which apparently there has been 6 or 7 positions. Apparently the only male in the office filed a discrimination complaint after being turned down for a promotion even though more than qualified for the job and in October 2010 the HRHS department said there isn’t any discrimination. I’m not sure about your thoughts but if this were true, I find it highly suspect that only one specific class would be hired into positions. Just my opinion though.

  59. m9078jk3 says:

    Any government official,study or research group that says this economy is improving is like Josef Goebbels the Nazi propaganda minister claiming that Germany will eventually have a final victory and win the war.Look at what Washington States highly paid economist claimed in the past.His claims were proven completely wrong.

    If we lived in a Stalinist state most of these officials would be hauled off by the NKVD and either “disappear” for the price of their failures or be sent to a Gulag.

  60. Well all I see is this State is going to be in the same shape as California.
    In these times the Privately Owned Companies can not give out raises to their emplyees due to the economy.
    Where does the City think they can get the money to pay for the raises.
    If people are not working and are tax up the rear already where does this money come from.

  61. The city council is Anderson’s boss. They hired him, they can fire him, and they write his performance review. To say now that they can not do a thing because they way the contract is written only tell me that they have been asleep while lawyers and Anderson penned his golden contract. Strickland is supporting the 17 % raise because she is at the beginning of a long public career she thinks and so she needs to grease the wheels to get her wheels greased later on…..we, it appears, are being scammed.

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