Top level raises clear 1st hurdle

The Columbus City Council has taken the first step in establishing salaries for the two new executive positions in Mayor Jim Lienhoop’s cabinet.

Before he took office on New Year’s Day, Lienhoop created two executive director positions to assist him with oversight of the city’s various departments.

He appointed Mary Ferdon as executive director of administration and community development, and Dave Hayward as executive director of public works/city engineer. Both were department heads during the first year of the Kristen Brown administration.

Without the two executive director positions, 16 department heads would report directly to Lienhoop rather than the eight that will report to him under the new organizational structure. Placing the added responsibility on Ferdon and Hayward will help the city conduct business more efficiently, Ferdon said.

An amendment to the city’s salary ordinance updates the titles of community development director and city engineer to reflect the new executive director positions, as well as raising the maximum salary Ferdon and Hayward could receive by nearly $10,000 each.

Under the new ordinance, Ferdon could earn up to $82,600 annually, while Hayward could earn up to $92,000 annually.

Lienhoop said Ferdon’s salary would likely be about $81,500 and Hayward’s salary would be about $92,000.

Hayward’s income will be even higher, however, because of special considerations due to his circumstances.

He began drawing a pension from the city after resigning as city engineer in 2013. Since the city can no longer contribute to that pension fund even though Hayward is once again a municipal employee, the amended ordinance would include an additional contribution to Hayward’s pay of $13,064 annually, equal to what he would receive through the public employees retirement fund.

That money would go to Hayward, rather than into a retirement fund. His total annual earnings with the additional contribution could be up to $105,064. In his last full year as city engineer in 2012, Hayward’s salary was $76,504.

Hayward would make about $3,000 more than Keith Reeves, the city’s utilities director, who is scheduled to earn $102,112 this year.

The proposed salaries for the senior department heads are in line with what other municipalities are willing to pay employees in similar positions, Ferdon said.

Lienhoop said he conferred with Ferdon, Hayward and council members to arrive at the proposed increases, as well as looking at other municipal salaries around the state.

In Valparaiso, a northern Indiana city with a population of about 32,000 — about 30 percent smaller than the Columbus population of 45,000 — the director of engineering’s maximum salary was $89,610 in 2015, while the city administrator’s maximum salary was $85,284.

In Noblesville, which has a population of about 55,000, the city engineer earned up to $95,951 in 2014, a salary that is likely higher now that two years have passed, Ferdon said.

In Westfield, where the population is about 32,000, similar to Valparaiso, the city of chief of staff will earn up to $120,000 this year. The chief of staff is similar to the director of administration.

Salaries for elected officials were set last fall. As mayor, Lienhoop will make $90,332 — less than Hayward’s proposed salary. Clerk-treasurer Luann Welmer will earn $74,909, and part-time city council members will earn $7,554.

The salary ordinance amendment passed its initial vote Monday without the support of councilman Frank Miller, who said it would be contradictory for him to support the proposed increase when he has refused to support similar proposed increases in the past.

Rather than adjusting a few salaries at a time, Miller said he wants a total review of all municipal salaries before he would vote for any changes.

An overall salary survey is planned for the first quarter of this year, but could be pushed back to the second quarter, Lienhoop said. That unpredictability is why he chose to ask the council to approve the two raises before an overall review.

The amendment to the salary ordinance also changed the title of the mayor’s executive secretary to the mayor’s executive assistant. Additionally, it increased the per diem pay for school crossing guards from $33.78 per guard to $34.46 per guard.

The seven-member council also approved adding additional appropriations to the 2016 budget in the community development and engineering departments to compensate for the new duties of the two department heads.

An additional $10,991 would be added to the community development personal services fund, and $10,207 would be added to the engineer personal services fund for a total of $21,198.

That motion also passed without Miller’s support.

Lienhoop cannot officially set the salaries for Ferdon and Hayward until the council passes the proposed amendment and additional appropriations a second time. The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 19.

District 3 councilman Frank Jerome was elected council president, which means he will facilitate council meetings if Lienhoop is unable to attend.

Executive oversight duties

Mayor Jim Lienhoop

The redevelopment, aviation, utilities, planning, metropolitan planning organization, fire and police departments and city attorney will report directly to the mayor. His annual salary as an elected official was set at $90,332 in the fall.

Mary Ferdon

As executive director of administration and community development, Mary Ferdon will oversee the community and business services departments, which include: Animal care, arts district, tax abatements, human rights, housing, parks and recreation, The Commons, finances, operations and risk, human resources, information technology, City Hall and facilities.

Her proposed salary would fall between $57,820 and $82,600. The current ordinance sets a cap on the community development director’s salary at $73,580.

Dave Hayward

As executive director of public works/city engineer, Dave Hayward will oversee city engineering, transit and public works. His proposed salary would be between $64,400 and $92,000. Currently it is capped at $83,624.

Department head salaries

Salaries for Columbus elected officials include:

  • Jim Lienhoop, mayor: $90,332
  • Luann Welmer, clerk-treasurer: $74,909
  • Part-time council members: $7,554

The 2016 salary ordinance sets compensation for the remaining department heads at:

  • Nicohl Birdwell-Goodin, animal care: $50,407
  • Brian Payne, aviation: $73,517
  • Cindy Setser, ColumBuS transit: $45,069
  • Keith Reeves, Columbus utilities: $102,112
  • Mike Compton, fire: $68,687
  • Aida Ramirez, Human Rights commission: $70,610
  • Mark Jones, parks and recreation: $79,070
  • Jeff Bergman, planning: $83,597
  • Jon Rohde, police: $72,951
  • Bryan Burton, public works: $68,352
  • Heather Pope, redevelopment: $72,162
Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at or 812-379-5712.