Recently, Gov. Mark Dayton gave some 30 state commissioners a raise, renewing the long-standing debate about whether public officials’ salaries should be on par with those of the private sector.
Some think that those who choose to work as public servants should expect to be paid less. But Dayton and others say that you need money to attract top talent. Many lawmakers believe they should spend taxpayers’ money carefully when it comes to these issues.
I was reminded of this round-robin debate recently when the Metropolitan Airports Commission opted to give its Executive Director/CEO Jeff Hamiel a 1.7 percent raise, bringing his annual salary to $200,095.
The MAC is different from most public entities because its $300 million annual budget is funded by various fees that travelers and others pay.
In considering a pay raise for Hamiel, the commission surveyed other large airports nationwide and discovered he was the lowest-paid executive in the country. Even with his pay raise, he’s still second from the bottom — Las Vegas is last.
The director of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is the top earner in the country at $453,200. But, in fairness, DFW has an annual passenger volume of about 60 million — far bigger than Minneapolis-St. Paul’s, which is about 34 million.
Hamiel, who was on vacation when I called for comment, has been at the MAC for 38 years. In recommending the pay bump, MAC Chair Dan Boivin praised Hamiel’s “outstanding knowledge, leadership and commitment.”
Boivin acknowledged that once Hamiel retires, the MAC may find it difficult to recruit a replacement, given the salary economics of aviation.
In Chicago, a search for a new aviation commissioner to oversee O’Hare and Midway airports took many months, reportedly because the original salary of $186,000 a year was too low. Ginger Evans, the airport veteran who was ultimately hired, is now being paid $300,000, but with the opportunity to earn a $100,000 performance bonus.