A business man scrolls through his phone with his feet on the table. The photo is cropped to cut out his face and his feet are closest to the camera.

Photo Credit: Stock photo

What Happens If Your Mayor Doesn’t Get Paid Enough to Care?

Paying mayors a decent wage might change how places are run

In a lot of places, only one person wants the job

Government exists to protect our freedom. Why can’t restaurants sell us food that will make us sick? Because government regulations can shut down dirty kitchens. Why can’t the mob come shake you down for money? Because the government has made that illegal.

Government sets up schools, hospitals, garbage collection, and roads so you have the freedom to live your life.

Do governments mess up? You bet they do. We talk about that a lot here.

But we get to choose who runs our government. At least, most of the time we do.

Ideally, voters have a range of candidates to choose from for mayor. But this year, eleven towns on VanIsle simply get who they get.

That’s because, in these places, only one person wants the job:

OAK BAY – Kevin Murdoch
COMOX – Nicole Minions
DUNCAN – Michelle Staples
LADYSMITH – Aaron Stone
SIDNEY – Cliff McNeil-Smith
TOFINO – Dan Law
HIGHLANDS – Ken Williams
SAYWARD – Mark Baker
ALERT BAY – Dennis Buchanan
ZEBALLOS – Julie Colbourne

We don’t mean to slander these candidates. They clearly care about their homes and want to make a difference.

We have to ask, though, why don’t more people want to run for mayor?

We think it has a lot to do with money. On VanIsle, mayors in the places with one candidate don’t make a lot:

OAK BAY – $34,425
COMOX – $44,439
DUNCAN – $32,952
LADYSMITH – $40,294
SIDNEY – $39,703
TOFINO – $30,690
HIGHLANDS – $16,163
SAYWARD – $9,360
ALERT BAY –$7,000
ZEBALLOS – $4,774
Numbers based on 2021 Statement of Financial Information Documents and emails to city staff.

The highest earner of the bunch brings in a whopping $44,000. The lowest makes about $5,000. It’s not hard to see why people wouldn’t fight tooth and nail for these positions.

Councillors make even less in these areas. Salaries hit a high of $25,273 in Comox and only $3,192 for Zeballos.

But small places still come with big responsibilities.

Mayor Julie Colbourne of Zeballos needs to run a village in a forest without a fire department. Mayor Dennis Buchanan of Alert Bay has had to manage a small island with no overnight emergency clinic.

Comox is a bit bigger, but Mayor Nicole Minions will lead during a drug crisis that goes beyond the town’s boundaries.

We need all sorts of perspectives to face these challenges. But can you imagine a single mom trying to raise her kids, be the mayor, and work another job to put food on the table? Single moms are already superheroes.

Our elected representatives rarely represent all the different people living in our towns. That’s in part because you have to be pretty financially stable to afford to do these jobs.

Governments protect our freedom. They run the bigger picture so we can get on with living our daily lives.

But if the elected folks with the closest ties to our daily lives need a side gig, do you think they’ll bring everything they have to being mayor?

And what happens when good people stop coming forward?