Why Are These Guys Getting Big Raises? Salaries for the Chief Executive Officers of Jacksonville's Independent Authorities Rose Rapidly in the Past Decade, Outpacing the Mayor, Who Is the City's Top Executive

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Paychecks took a pounding in the recession, but at Jacksonville's major independent authorities, salaries for the chief executives rose as much as four times faster than average household income.

The biggest jump is at the Jacksonville Port Authority, which pays its top executive, Paul Anderson, $320,000 a year - nearly double the $168,411 the job paid in 2002.

That salary is second to JEA chief executive Jim Dickenson's $364,197.

Michael Blaylock, Jacksonville Transportation Authority's chief executive, is on course to break the $300,000 threshold this year. He now makes $287,160, a 55 percent salary increase in 10 years. His contract calls for a 5 percent pay increase in May, which would put his pay at $301,518.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority chief executive Steve Grossman is paid $280,000, a 56 percent jump over what the job paid 10 years ago.

Members of the appointed boards overseeing the authorities say they set the pay for the chief executives so they can be competitive in the hiring market for the best talent. But Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni said the salaries have grown while Jacksonville residents are coping with smaller paychecks and job losses.

"To the average citizen, it seems that they [the authorities] are out of touch with the real world," he said.

At City Hall, Mayor Alvin Brown took a 20 percent pay cut this year, giving him a $139,214 salary, or 7 percent less than what John Delaney made in 2002.

Brown has not called on the independent authorities to cut or freeze pay for their chief executives. He said he expects his board appointees to share his philosophy of government "living within its means."

But he said Jacksonville must offer compensation that attracts top talent so the city can advance.

"The ability to attract talent and maintain talent and competitiveness of the agencies is key," he said. "It's all about the future."

Median household income in Jacksonville rose to $46,112 in 2010 - the latest year available - from $39,965 in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. That rise in household income equates to an increase of 1.8 percent per year.

'YOU'VE GOT TO PAY'

JaxPort Board Chairman Reginald Gaffney said the port authority hired Anderson last year for $320,000 - the highest pay for a port director in Florida - because JaxPort wanted to attract a candidate able to win hundreds of millions of dollars needed in coming years to expand the port.

"If you want the best, you've got to pay for the best, and that's what we've done," Gaffney said.

Anderson replaced Rick Ferrin, who made about $255,000. Anderson's pay is at the level of the Georgia Ports Authority's top executive, who oversees ports in Savannah and Brunswick that are competitors of Jacksonville.

Gaffney said Anderson has proven himself by attracting commitments of $100 million from the state and federal government for such work as Blount Island terminal repairs, a planned facility for switching cargo to trains at the Dames Point terminal, and a future fix of Mile Point navigation obstacles in the ship channel.

"He has demonstrated in his first year the board made a sound investment," Gaffney said.

The Jacksonville Aviation Authority bumped Grossman's pay to $280,000 from $245,000 last year. …