In a unanimous vote and amid public scrutiny, the Redwood City Council agreed on Monday to give the city manager and the city attorney 10% pay increases and a 10% differential above other staff, specifically the highest-paid department heads directly below them.
The approved pay raises would bring the salary of City Attorney Veronica Ramirez and City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz to $285,067 and $334,250, respectively. The last time Diaz received a wage increase was in 2019. Ramirez received a salary increase the same year.
In comparing the salaries of neighboring cities – and those with similar population sizes and cities’ general fund sizes – Mayor Diane Howard stressed the importance of staying competitive in the region.
“I can honestly tell you that our city manager and our city attorney are in the top tier,” Howard said, referring to the city’s manager and attorney. “However, they're not getting a top-tier salary compared to their peers. Let me state for the record the intent and the recommendation here tonight is not to try to accomplish that.”
Instead, Redwood City would increase their salaries “to show how much we value them, how much we appreciate them, and that we want them to stay,” Howard added.
“Talent and leadership – the qualities that these two women have – they're not easy to find, and you need to respect that and really hold on to that,” Howard said. “So I am strongly recommending this action. I know it's not a popular one, but I will stand behind my recommendation.”
The 10% differential is a minimum requirement, but the actual difference is a bit higher, according to salary data from the city.
The approved ordinance to increase Diaz's salary also ensures that Diaz makes at least 10% more than the highest-paid department head, according to a spokesperson from the city. Diaz, who joined Redwood City in 2015 from Mountain View, will make more than 14% more than the Redwood City Chief of Police Dan Mulholland. The top cop makes $285,576. The differential only applies to the city manager and not the city attorney, per the spokesperson. It will not occur immediately but within two years.
The final recommendation in the ordinances was to adjust the city manager’s salary in the next two years, if needed, to keep the 10% differential between the city manager and her direct reports, said Vice Mayor Giselle Hale.
“We have a team led by two females, which is very rare in our region and something we would love to see more—women aspiring and minorities aspiring into these roles,” Hale said. “And I think that they should not be asked to do something that their peers are not being asked to do as well. I could not support something like that.”
The two women each received performance evaluations in 2020. Still, despite the Ad Hoc Committee recommending that they each receive a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and 3% merit increases for the years 2019 and 2020, the city manager and the city attorney both chose to forgo their pay raises in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to city human resources manager. The Ad Hoc Committee is comprised of Howard, Hale and council member Alicia Aguirre.
City employees, however, did not forgo their pay raises and instead received pay raises in 2019, 2020 and 2021, about 3% to 3.5% COLAs, according to a city presentation at Monday’s council meeting. Some employees also received 2% to 7% merit increases for each of those years.
Diaz’s previous salary was $303,864, and Ramirez’s prior salary was $259,152, bringing their total wage up by 10% each. The pay raises are retroactive to July 1 of 2021 and cover the COLA cost of living for 2019, 2020 and 2021.
According to the city, the pay raises will account for an $80,000 estimated increase – salary and benefits – to the 2021-22 Adopted Budget.
Johanna Rasmussen of the Farm Hill Neighborhood Association, who created a Change.org petition to stop the pay raises, said she thought the $80,000 increase to the budget was “excessive.” The petition received more than 200 signatures.
“They do not reflect the needs or best interests of our community,” she said. “They are not equitable. Redwood City’s hourly employees, who make much, much less were offered 3% raises this year.”
Rasmussen then read a list of names of those who asked the city council to vote no on the pay raises.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name and job title of the next highest-paid employee below City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz. That person is Redwood City's police chief who makes $285,576 a year. The difference between the two is about 14%. The city attorney is not included in the 10% differential, which begins within two years for the city manager.
Michelle Iracheta is the editor at the Redwood City Pulse, a local news site dedicated to providing accurate and timely news to the Redwood City community. Michelle can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter, on Facebook, and by phone at 832-729-2105. To read more stories about Redwood City, subscribe to our daily Express newsletter on rwcpulse.com.