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Significant public support for PO mayor's salary boost

The proposal to raise Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola's salary received overwhelming support on Monday night, as public testimony underscored the need for a full-time, fully compensated leader to shepherd the town through its expected growth spurt.

Coppola, who said he regularly works 60-hour weeks, is paid the part-time wage of $19,738. He seeks to incrementally increase his pay to the full-time level of $62,169 by re-allocating funds intended for a tourism director.

"We should be investing our resources in a leader who is devoting his time to building the community," said Dick Davis, who is spearheading the campaign to annex McCormick Woods. "This approach is bold and aggressive and will be watched by communities all over the state.”

Davis was one of 33 people testifying, all but six in favor of the proposal. Only two of the seven city council members have indicated they would oppose the matter when it comes up for a vote on Dec. 9.

Even with all this support there are still a few discouraging words. Councilman Fred Olin opposes the proposal for three reasons: The mayor agreed to the salary before running, tourism funds should not be used and the matter should be put before the people for a vote.

Such action would be voluntary, as the council is legally entitled to raise (or presumably drop) the mayor's salary. In most cases, the raise does not affect the incumbent and goes into effect after the next election.

Coppola does not want to wait. He has put his business on ice and is spending twice the time he expected when he decided to seek the job. Lodging tax revenues provide a natural funding source, since the council already allocated $32,000 toward hiring a tourism director.

"In putting together the 2009 budget, the Finance Committee came to the realization that it would not be able to make up the required difference to fully fund this position in the 2009 budget," Coppola wrote in a memo. "Since the current mayor already does most of this work anyway, that is a legally viable source for that money, and it will fund approximately 6 months of the additional pay."

A dissent came from Heather Cole, who owns a local bed and breakfast. While she praised Coppola's performance during his first year as mayor she does not believe it should be supported by the lodging tax.

"The mayor deserves a full-time salary." Cole said. "But it needs to be independent of a tourism director. We need someone dedicated to that position."

"I am concerned about the huge increase in salary," said Jo Anne Hartman, "Now, in a time where people are losing their jobs we need to ask some questions whether this is the right time to be doing this."

"When I heard about this I almost had a stroke," said Mary Felts. "It has always been my philosophy that if you work hard you will get a raise, instead of giving you a raise and seeing what happens. Since I first read about this I have talked to many people, and have not found one who said it was justified."

Felts’ circle of friends presumably did not include several high profile supporters, including South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel (who submitted a statement), Homebuilder's Association Executive VP Castle, Port Orchard Planning Commissioner Gil Michael, Kitsap County Planning Commissioners Fred Depee and Robert Baglio, car dealer Craig Quisenberry and Port Orchard Independent Publisher Rich Peterson.

The proposal will evolve, as it will need renewal in six months. At this time, the council can decide whether to continue the arrangement or find another funding source, or return the mayor's salary to its previous level.

While supporters testified in specific support of Coppola, salary issues will need to be addressed independent of his tenure. To be a first class city Port Orchard must have a full-time mayor; Coppola or anyone else.

"We need to become a full-time city with a full-time mayor who will take progressive action," said Richard A. Brown. "This is the right step to accomplish this."

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