The West Hartford Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to give Town Manager Ron Van Winkle a 4 percent raise effective Jan. 1, 2013.
“This is really late, this is overdue," said Mayor Scott Slifka.
"We have the best town manager in the state ... but we haven’t raised his salary one cent.”
Van Winkle became interim town manager on Sept. 9, 2008, and was hired on a permanent basis on Aug. 11, 2009. His salary has remained at $145,000, which was the same salary as that earned by his predecessor, Jim Francis.
Slifka said that the increase is extremely modest. He said that in order to come up with a basis for the increase, the council tried to look at some comparables but that was difficult to achieve because there is a lack of uniform structure in the governance of towns in the state.
The three that were identified were all smaller communities, and all three pay their town manager more than Van Winkle currently earns. South Windsor's town manager earns $148,962, Manchester's earns $156,136, and Glastonbury's earns $163,000.
Even after Van Winkle receives the 4 percent raise, his salary of $150,800 will still be lower than several of his counterparts.
"If economic times were better we would be going to a higher number," Slifka said.
He said that the council is going to make a commitment to address the salary issue on an annual basis – "in fairness to the manager and in fairness to the community."
"It took me all of half a second to say let’s go through and do it right," said Minority Leader Denise Hall. "A lot of people don’t realize that Ron runs the town. Ron is like the CEO of a corporation. He has done an exceptional job and I appreciate it every day.”
Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor also praised Van Winkle's leadership of the town. “I really am in awe of Ron at any turn. You are really tremendously underpaid for the value that we get, the value that the community gets. I feel that this has been a true public service job.”
Other council members also praised Van Winkle for his work and integrity, and for his recruitment and hiring of other excellent town leaders such as Police Chief Tracey Gove.
During the public comment session preceding the council meeting a comment was made about the town manager receiving a bonus.
Slifka said that Van Winkle has never received a bonus. "The council in the past did award bonuses, but starting with Jim Francis’ time we eliminated this. As Leon said, Ron loves this town. He has been selfless in this regard because of that. The community should know there are selfless people in community service, and Ron is one of those."