After serving as the city manager of Bakersfield for more than 27 years, I recently retired. Whenever I spoke about successes of the city over that time frame, I indicated that one of the primary reasons for positive accomplishments was that I was blessed with City Councils who, for the most part, were there to make Bakersfield a better place to live and work.
Recently, the subject of City Council compensation has been raised. Serving on the City Council here is not at all unlike serving on the board of a charity or nonprofit. You do not do it for the compensation, you do it for a community betterment you believe in.
The current group of elected officials are nearly all full-time employees of others or are self employed. Serving on the City Council in Bakersfield is a part-time (though difficult and challenging) addition to other business activities. I have worked in city government cumulatively for 46 years and have seen other systems. This one is, in my experience, the best. I have served in Bakersfield with a CPA, bank executive, engineer, entrepreneurs, nonprofit and corporate CEOs and a very distinguished ambulance company owner among other significant professions. That is quality and with that quality comes business expertise, judgement and the ability to set goals.
If the compensation is significantly increased so it is implied to be full-time, it will change the candidate field to those whose highest aspiration is a mediocre salary or who aspire to be career politicians and that will not result in the quality of life experience of those professions routinely elected here in the past.
The real pay of the current City Council is free health insurance, a car allowance and admittedly a tiny salary of $100 a month. The total, depending on insurance coverage, is about $25,000 a year. It sounds compelling to drop the benefits and only talk about the $100, but that just is not accurate. Though $25,000 is not a lot, it has resulted in quality City Councils and that should be the common goal.
Alan Tandy, former Bakersfield city manager