This Michigan city manager could be granted a $37,950 raise. Here's why

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Sterling Heights — The City Council is scheduled to consider a new contract for longtime city manager Mark Vanderpool this week.

The issue is on the council's agenda for its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday. The panel's seven members will meet in a video conference and discuss an agreement that would give Vanderpool a $37,950 raise, upping his annual salary to $202,950.

As Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor explains, it would bring Vanderpool to the level of other city managers running Michigan cities of similar size.

Sterling Heights city manager Mark Vanderpool

"I know in these times raises, especially large ones, don't look good," said Taylor. "But comparing his pay with that of city council-city manager run cities of similar size, he has been underpaid for years but still doing an incredible job for us.

"In my view, he is the best city manager in Michigan and one of the best in the nation," Taylor said. "I would hate to lose him."

According to 2019 figures compiled by Sterling Heights, the highest paid city manager in Michigan is in Grand Rapids, at $257,500; followed by Ann Arbor, $223,600; Troy, $167,500; and Farmington Hills, $163,200. Vanderpool was paid $165,000.

According to 2019 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, Sterling Heights' population was 132,438. By comparison, Grand Rapids' was 201,013; Ann Arbor's, 119,980; Troy's, 84,092, and Farmington Hills', 80,612.

"This raise would put our city manager pay right behind Ann Arbor and above Troy and Farmington Hills," said Taylor. "I think that would be appropriate. Now it will require four votes from the City Council, and I think we may see that Tuesday night."

But at least one council member thinks this is the wrong time to consider a raise for Vanderpool.

"A raise at this time is wrong for the city of Sterling Heights, where many of our citizens and businesses are hurting from COVID,” said Councilman Michael Radtke. “It also smacks of rank hypocrisy, as we ask both Lansing and D.C. for funds to augment our budget due to the pandemic.

"Mark Vanderpool is an excellent city manager, but at the end of the day, we all need to tighten our belts this year," he said. "That's why I've been against this raise from the start."

Vanderpool has been Sterling Heights' city manager since 2004. Before that, he was the assistant village manager for Skokie, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.

Under his existing contract, Vanderpool's base salary is $165,000 and he receives about $29,000 in benefits. Also under the contract, he doesn't receive a fixed pension when he retires. Instead, the city contributes $18,000 a year into a retirement account. The city also provides him with a vehicle.

Sterling Heights has about 500 full-time city employees. It expects to record revenue in 2020 of about $110 million and expenditures of about $106 million.

Taylor credited Vanderpool with "almost single-handedly" obtaining a $100 million federal road grant for a project to rebuild Mound Road, one of Metro Detroit's most heavily traveled roads. Work, scheduled to begin next year, would be done from Interstate 696 to M-59, Taylor said.

Charles E. Ramirez contributed.