Phil Washington, the executive director of Denver International Airport, will make just shy of $347,000 this year after the City Council on Monday signed off on a round of pay increases for mayoral appointees.

The raises, boosting the pay of the heads of 11 departments, bring the pay rates for those positions up to median levels based on a 2021 survey of comparable cities, according to council documents. In total, the city is dedicating an extra $309,838 to those jobs this year, money that will be coming out of existing departmental budgets retroactive to Jan. 1.

While the DIA CEO role is getting the biggest bump, the director of public health and environment, a job currently held by Bob McDonald, is also getting a large increase, nearly 27% to $188,766 per year.

The raises are the first in six years for most appointed positions in the city, according to a staff report. The director of excise and licenses got a raise in 2017 after marijuana business regulation was added to that job’s responsibilities. Appointees are not eligible for merit raises like most other city employees.

Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca was the sole councilmember who opposed the ordinance. It was inappropriate for Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration to pursue raises when he is term limited next year, she argued. She also raised concerns about low-wage earners in city positions and what was being done to support them.

“I do not support this change without first addressing the pay inequities for nonappointed … employees for the city,” CdeBaca said Monday.

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Denver offered free drug test strips and Narcan. Demand was overwhelming.

Other council members spoke out in favor of the measure when it was called out for a preliminary vote last week. Some pointed to the fact there are staff members within some departments that are outearning their bosses.

Higher pay will also be key to attracting skilled people for department head positions in the future, supporters argued. The next mayor, when that person is sworn in next summer, will have the option to request their own adjustments to appointees’ salaries, including decreases if they see fit.

“We want to make sure that whoever the next mayor is, they are set up for success,” Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer said. “They are going to have to go through a council approval process for all of their cabinet appointees and one of the things that we can do help set that mayor up for success is include median pay for their executive directors.”

The ordinance passed 12-1 on Monday.

2022 pay raises for mayoral appointees

The list below provides the names of the 11 people currently helming city departments, what the appointed director of each department was making prior to Monday’s vote and what those positions will now be paid per year.

Laura Aldrete, executive director of community planning and development: $175,950, a 4.72% raise to $184,257.
Phil Washington, executive director of Denver International Airport: $266,143, a 30.37% raise to $346,975.
Kristin Bronson, city attorney: $196,650, a 9.87% raise to $216,061.
Armando Saldate, executive director of the department of public safety: $168,861, a 22.28% raise to $206,481.
Adam Phipps, executive director of the department of transportation and infrastructure: $190,625, a 2.44% raise to $195,220.
Jay Morein, executive director of human services: $150,715, a 16.69% raise to $175,876.
Happy Haynes, executive director of parks and recreation: $144,168, a 18.28% raise to $170,523.
Andrew Amador, executive director department of general services: $144,168, a 23% raise to $177,332.
Brendan Hanlon, executive director of the department of finance: $163,118, a 13.64% raise to $185,366.
Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and the Environment: $149,040, a 26.65% raise to $188,766.
Molly Duplechian, executive director of excise and licenses: $142,000, a 8.72% raise to $154,381.

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