Harbor mayors work many hours for little money

Back in August, during the primaries, there were numerous citizens who wanted to be mayor of their respective Harbor cities.

Aberdeen, Cosmopolis and Ocean Shores each had four candidates vying to be their city’s top elected official, while there were three more running in Hoquiam. Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Cosmopolis all eventually elected new mayors — Pete Schave, Ben Winkelman and Kyle Pauley, respectively — while Crystal Dingler ended up being re-elected in Ocean Shores by a razor-thin margin.

There are many reasons a candidate might run for mayor, but a big monthly salary is likely not one of them.

That wasn’t always the case. For a short while the mayor of Ocean Shores was making a living wage.

Mayor Crystal Dingler was paid $48,000 a year in 2019 while the city was without a city administrator.

But once a new one was hired in 2019, that salary was reduced to $1,000 a month. When she first was elected, Dingler was paid the lower salary for the first two years, but the City Council then increased her compensation while she continued to fill so many administrative duties to cut costs. Now she’s back to the original salary.

The Daily World recently conducted a phone survey of every incorporated city on the Twin Harbors to find out exactly what each mayor’s monthly salary was in those 11 municipalities. Here are the results, from top to bottom, along with the population of each city from state figures compiled on washington-demographics.com. These are the current numbers, with at least two of them (Cosmopolis and Hoquiam) reflecting recent raises voted on by their respective city councils.

Salary Chart

• Aberdeen — $1,200 (pop. 16,654)

• Ocean Shores — $1,000 (pop. 6,112)

• Westport — $952.95 (pop. 2,080)

• Hoquiam — $885 (pop. 8,596)

• South Bend — $800 (pop. 1,674)

• Cosmopolis — $600 (pop. 1,647)

• Elma — $600 (pop. 3,320)

• McCleary — $600 (pop. 1,732)

• Montesano — $550 (pop. 4,028)

• Raymond — $371.46 (pop. 2,963)

• Oakville — $127.88 (pop. 690)

Working for peanuts?

No matter the number or the city, one current mayor and one former mayor said it’s more than likely that all the mayors of all the aforementioned cities are working their public-service jobs for far less than the state’s minimum wage of $13.50 per hour.

“I would say on the average week it’s takes about 25 to 30 hours,” said Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel, who is serving her second term at the city’s helm. At 25 hours a week, that would mean about $5.50 an hour for her — not quite minimum wage 20 years ago. “Most of my days start early and end pretty late. … That’s my choice, but I have pretty high expectations for my department heads and staff, so I have high expectations for myself.”

Former Hoquiam mayor Jasmine Dickhoff wouldn’t even attempt to estimate an average based on her experiences.

“Oh, boy. Well, it kind of varies because you’re always on call,” Dickhoff said. “Every month there’s different stuff going on. It varies so much. But I’ve never known anybody in public service who is doing it for the money — at least on the local level,” she added.

Both Samuel and Dickhoff said they had to vary hours in their “day jobs” in order to take on the multiple challenges of municipal service.

“My entire day on Wednesday I am there (City Hall) that day for eight to 10 hours. The rest of the time (dedicated to mayoral work) is usually before or after work,” said Samuel, who has a law office close to City Hall. “But I am self-employed so I don’t have to answer to a boss.”

“I dropped a couple of days from my day job to be able to attend meetings and such,” said Dickhoff. “And then you get called at 3 or 4 in the morning when things happen. It’s truly just a lot of hard work.”

Samuel credits her husband and son for dealing with all the extra hours she puts into serving as mayor.

”I don’t know how people could do it unless your family is 100 percent supportive,” she said. “I don’t know how people do three or four terms. “I thought long and hard about running again, because the only way I do this job is all-in.”