South Salt Lake mayor defends new $130,000 salary

Apr 20, 2022, 5:48 PM
Cherie Wood...
South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood talks with members of the media prior to a tour of the old Granite High campus Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011. Photo credit: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor of South Salt Lake City, Cherie Wood, defended her salary increase by stating she hadn’t received a pay bump in 11 years.

Wood was first elected mayor in 2009 and is currently serving her third term.

In July 2018, the South Salt Lake City Council shot down a raise for its members and for Mayor Wood.

But this year, the council gave itself a raise and hiked the mayor’s salary from $81,000 to $130,000 a year, an almost 60% increase. The mayor said her pay increase was actually 45%.

Welcome to the show

Mayor Wood joined KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic and guest host state Sen. Todd Weiler of Woods Cross to discuss pay raises — and how they are determined — for city leaders in South Salt Lake.

A citizens group wants to put the matter of city leaders’ pay increases before voters in November. A spokesman for the group explained the reasoning behind it Tuesday afternoon.

“How do you justify that big of a pay jump?” Debbie asked Mayor Wood.

“So, I have not had a raise in 11 years,” she said, “and the [city] council took information from markets, market studies, survey — of surrounding — mayors, and they landed on the 130 [$130,000]. It was not something — It was not the amount that I would — I wasn’t lobbying for an amount. I was lobbying for a raise.”

The mayor agreed with Debbie’s statement that the City Council voted to bypass a commission determining pay raises for city leaders.

What do your constituents say?

“What’s the feedback you’ve been getting from your residents there, mayor?” Debbie asked.

“I have been getting so much support from emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook messages,” Wood responded. “People understand — like I’m a lifelong resident of South Salt Lake. I’ve raised my three boys here. They’re fourth-generation South Salt Lake residents. I care deeply about this community, and my job is a full-time job. It’s 24/7. City business doesn’t always occur between 8-to-5, Monday through Friday. But I’m happy to do the work. I love this community.”

Weiler asked the mayor if she supports allowing voters to weigh in on city leaders’ pay raises.

“Well, I guess my comment to that would be: Official salaries are almost all determined via ordinance by their legislative bodies. This includes cities, counties and state salaries, [which] are not something that’s put on a ballot,” Wood replied.

“So any legislative act by a city council is subject to referendum, and I think that’s what the citizens group is pushing for,” Weiler said.

“Yeah, and as I understand, there was some deficiency in their application,” she said. “And so it’s going through the process that also is governed by state law.”

Mayor defends salary?

“At the end of the day, mayor, before we let you go, do you stand by what we now calculated to be a 60% raise?” Debbie asked.

“It’s actually a 45% raise,” she said.

“OK, so 45% raise. Yes, let’s — we’ll, we’ll go with that, 45%,” Debbie responded, adding the increase dwarfs what residents of South Salt Lake typically receive from their private employers. “Maybe they get 3%. Maybe they get 5%. Maybe they get no raise. Do you stand by your raise?”

“Based off the fact that I’ve not had a raise for 11 years, and I’ve been doing this job for 12 years. You know, the [city] council did research on it,” the mayor said. “Councilmember [Natalie] Pinkney, after doing the research, commented that it looked like wage theft, so —”

“Just to clarify what looks like wage theft?” Debbie asked.

“That I had not received increases,” Mayor Wood replied.

She went on to say that as the first female mayor of South Salt Lake, she didn’t have the option of receiving raises alongside employees of the city who were given pay bumps of 3, 4, and 5%.

“That was never an option for me. And now that we have a new council, and the makeup of the council has changed, they felt that they needed to correct,” Mayor Wood said in closing.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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South Salt Lake mayor defends new $130,000 salary