America’s 15 Highest-Paid Mayors

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Running a city can pay more than running an entire state.

Sometimes a lot more: The country’s highest-earning mayor gets more than four times as much as the governor of Maine. (For more on this, see “What the Governor Gets Paid in Every State.”)

Salary size relies on more than city size too.

For instance, the highest-paid mayor in the U.S. presides over a city of about 871,000 souls yet earns almost $124,000 more than the mayor of a Midwest town with only about 10,000 fewer people. (Here’s hoping that mayor at least gets a designated parking space at City Hall.)

Following are 15 of the highest-paid U.S. mayors, in order from lowest to highest salary. You might be as surprised as we were by some of the numbers.

15. Memphis, Tennessee

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Mayor: Jim Strickland

First elected: 2015

Salary: $170,817

City population: 649,243 (ranks as 28th-largest U.S. city in 2018, according to World Population Review.)

Strickland, a Democrat who was sworn in in 2016, challenged the establishment and promoted his forward-looking vision for Memphis in December 2017 by directing the removal of two statues of Confederate leaders (Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest). Previous requests to take the statues located in city parks down had been foiled by a state law that required a two-thirds majority vote of the Tennessee Historical Commission, a group that the Memphis Commercial Appeal describes as “heavily stacked with Confederate history buffs and apologists.”

The City Council came up with a legal work-around: It approved the sale of the two parks to a privately funded nonprofit. As owner of the sites, the nonprofit was permitted to remove the statues — which it did, hours later.

“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum,” Strickland said at a press conference.

According to Strickland’s official website:

Mayor Strickland’s vision is to reverse population loss through a strategy that reinvests in Memphis’ core and its neighborhoods — changing a long-held view that Memphis should grow outward.

14. Denver

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Mayor: Michael B. Hancock

First elected: 2011

Salary: $172,000

City population: 719,116 (ranks 19th)

A businessman who entered Denver politics in 2003, Hancock became mayor of the Mile High City in 2011. The mayor, a Democrat, has been buffeted by scandal rumors since his election. First it was an allegation that he had used an escort service; local news agencies investigated but were unable to prove the rumor.

Next, one of Hancock’s aides was accused of sexually harassing a female police officer on the mayor’s security detail. After being fired, the aide sued for, among other things, defamation and breach of contract. Ultimately he settled with the city for $200,000; the police officer received $75,000.

During that same period the mayor himself sent texts to the police officer in question, texts he now acknowledges were “inappropriate.” He characterized them as friendly banter and stated that if he’d known she was offended he would have stopped texting.

Some have called for his resignation. Hancock declined, and has announced his plans to run for a third term.

13. Boston

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Mayor: Martin J. Walsh

First elected: 2014

Salary: $175,000

City population: 687,584 (ranks 22nd)

Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, presides over a city government that has created a “recovery office,” plans to build a new recovery facility and has invested in other addiction services. In January 2018, the news site MassLive.com reported that Walsh is considering a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that he says have “irresponsibly saturated the market with opiates, knowingly putting consumers at risk for addiction.”

Walsh isn’t the only one thinking about this. More than 100 cities and states are pursuing litigation against drug companies. Among them are two other Massachusetts cities, Quincy and Springfield.

12. Columbus, Ohio

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Mayor: Andrew J. Ginther

First elected: 2015

Salary: $177,000

City population: 880,182 (ranks 15th)

Under Ginther’s administration, the capital of Ohio emerged the winner in the federal Smart City Challenge, a 2016 initiative by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Columbus beat out 71 other applicants, including fellow finalists Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and Denver.

The goal is to design a transportation model that uses technology and public transit to facilitate smooth urban travel. To build that vision, the City of Columbus received $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and an additional $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc.

11. Baltimore

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Mayor: Catherine E. Pugh

First elected: 2016

Salary: $180,000

City population: 601,188 (ranks 30th)

The mayor had a tough first year due to a record number of homicides (342) and ongoing issues with police corruption. Ultimately, she replaced the police commissioner and has talked of rebuilding trust between Baltimore neighborhoods and law enforcement.

In March 2018, her new spokesman, Darryl Strange, resigned on his first day in office after a Baltimore Sun reporter mentioned three lawsuits from Strange’s days as a police officer. Awkward.

10. Jacksonville, Florida

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Mayor: Lenny Curry

First elected: 2015

Salary: $180,332 (per mayor’s office spokesperson)

City population: 907,529 (ranks 12th)

The mayor was an at-large delegate from Florida at the 2016 Republican National Convention. He was also one of 99 Florida delegates who pledged support to now-President Donald Trump over three ballots.

9. Orlando, Florida

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Mayor: Buddy Dyer

First elected: 2003

Salary: $186,306

City population: 290,553 (ranks 69th)

Dyer, a Democrat, was elected in a special election way back in 2003, and has been re-elected ever since despite his 2005 indictment for paying someone to collect absentee ballots (a law he had voted on during his 10 years as a member of the Florida Legislature).

The mayor admitted he’d paid $10,000 for workers to get out the vote, but said he had no idea that anything illegal had happened. Ultimately, the charges were dropped because the state attorney said “no actual fraud” had occurred with the ballots.

8. Washington, D.C.

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Mayor: Muriel Bowser

First elected: 2014

Salary: $200,000

City population: 702,756 (ranks 20th)

Bowser defeated seven other hopefuls, including the sitting mayor, in the Democratic Party primary in 2014, and went on to win the general election against three independent and two minor party candidates. She was sworn in on Jan. 2, 2015.

Bowser, a Democrat, previously served as a D.C. Council member for Ward 4 from 2007-2015. While a council member, she had voted “yes” on a bill decriminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana in the District of Columbia.

As mayor, she bills herself as a champion of opportunity. According to her website:

Mayor Bowser expanded opportunity across all 8 Wards of D.C. by strengthening job training programs, and by attracting and retaining jobs in the District. As of the first quarter of 2016, there are burgeoning projects across the city that will eventually deliver 32,000 new jobs. Washington, D.C., is the economic engine of the metropolitan region, and has one of the strongest local economies in the country.

7. Seattle

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Mayor: Jenny Durkan

First elected: 2017

Salary: $200,552 (per City of Seattle Communications Office)

City population: 746,046 (ranks 18th)

Durkan, a Democrat, was one of 21 candidates in an anything-can-happen primary election, which took place after former Mayor Ed Murray ended his campaign for re-election in September 2017 after allegations of past sexual abuse. She defeated the second-place primary finisher, activist Cary Moon, in the general election.

Durkan became the first openly gay U.S. attorney after her 2009 appointment for the Western District of Washington, which she served until 2014.

6. Chicago

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Mayor: Rahm Emanuel

First elected: 2011

Salary: $216,000

City population: 2,687,682 (ranks third)

Emanuel took the job soon after serving as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Since his election, he’s been faced with issue after issue, including but not limited to high debt, billions of dollars’ worth of unfunded pensions, sinking credit ratings, a teachers strike, high murder rates and police-citizen tension.

Lately he’s been looking for ways to balance the city’s budget, pushing through sizable property tax increases and increased ticketing of illegal parked cars on weekends (in a city that already has cameras to ticket speeders and red-light runners). The city’s soft-drink tax brought national attention, too.

5. Philadelphia

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Mayor: Jim Kenney

First elected: 2015

Salary: $218,000

City population: 1,573,688 (ranks sixth)

Philadelphia has a bit of a chip on its shoulder, sandwiched as it is between two of the nation’s most important (or at least most self-important) cities, New York City and Washington, D.C. By contrast, the City of Brotherly Love is the kind of place that once launched a public relations campaign that read, “Philadelphia isn’t as bad as Philadelphians say it is.” (These days the slogan is “The Place That Loves You Back.”)

The nation’s fifth-largest city is also the kind of place whose schools were so bad that the state took charge, back in 2001. Toward the end of 2017, the Democratic mayor took back the management of city schools. He has his work cut out for him: Philadelphia public schools are up against a $100 million deficit, a gap expected to expand to $1 billion by 2022.

4. Houston

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Mayor: Sylvester Turner

First elected: 2015

Salary: $236,189

City population: 2,340,814 (ranks fourth)

Third time was the charm for Turner, who was finally elected after two previous mayoral campaigns. He had two important endorsements: from President Barack Obama and previous officeholder Annise D. Parker, one of the first openly gay mayors in the United States.

Turner previously served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1989 until he was installed as mayor in 2016. The Democrat campaigned both on big-picture issues and practical matters such as pothole repair.

3. Los Angeles

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Mayor: Eric Garcetti

First elected: 2013

Salary: $246,303

City population: 4,030,668 (ranks second)

Garcetti is the first-ever Jewish mayor of Los Angeles, and one of the youngest, having been elected at age 42. He also is the second Mexican-American mayor in over a century, as his family history combines the stories of both Russian Jewish immigrant and Mexican immigrant families.

Although at times he’s been floated as a possible candidate for senator or governor, he’s gone on record (well, on Twitter) saying that he is “passionate about my city and my family; both are here in Los Angeles. We have a lot of work left to do … and I know I can best build on our progress here in L.A.”

2. New York City

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Mayor: Bill de Blasio

First elected: 2013

Salary: $258,750

City population: 8,580,015 (ranks first)

After winning his first election as mayor in 2013, de Blasio was re-elected to the office in 2017. The mayor in his first term authorized a retroactive 15 percent pay raise for city officials — including himself. However, de Blasio waited until his second term to start taking the higher salary.

His predecessor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, opted for a $1-a-year salary.

1. San Francisco

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Mayor: Mark E. Farrell

First elected: 2018

Salary: $300,977

City population: 888,653 (ranks 14th)

On Jan. 23, 2018, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Farrell in as mayor to replace Edwin M. Lee, who died in office in December 2017.

Fun fact: Farrell earns that $300,977 salary for heading up a city of just under 871,000 people. Meanwhile, California Gov. Jerry Brown presides over a state of 38,993,940, and he earns $177,467.

Is your mayor among the top earners? How much do you think the position should be compensated? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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