Some think Fort Myers city manager’s pay raise is bad timing

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Seal of the City of Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

As the economy struggles, a public leader in Southwest Florida is receiving a pay raise through taxpayer money.

Monday, a 20% salary bump for City Manager Saeed Kazemi in Fort Myers was approved in a 4-3 vote by city council.

Many people in Fort Myers have fallen on hard times in 2020, so the pay raise for the city manager has some fired up and some simply scratching their heads over the decision.

“Part of being a leader is being able to sacrifice and being transparent and saying, ‘I know everybody’s suffering. I’m not going to take more money. As a matter fact, maybe I’ll take less,’” Judy Lyons aid. “How about that?”

“I’d say it’s a bit much,” Rick Williamson said. “I wish I was getting a 20 % raise on my money, and I’m not.”

The city manager will make $230,000 annually with the approved pay bump.

“Other people are suffering,” Lyons aid. “Is anybody else getting a 20% raise? I don’t think so.”

But Councilman Kevin Anderson said Kazemi’s approved salary increase was a longtime coming.

“He had not gotten a raise in the last five years, so it’s a little bit of a catchup,” Anderson said.

Still, Anderson, Councilman Johnny Streets and Councilman Fred Burson voted against the increase.

“It’s a big job. It’s an important job, but still it is a public sector job, which means paid for the tax dollars,” Anderson said.

Every year, city council is supposed to evaluate the manager’s performance, salary and possibly initiate a raise.

But the mayor said council had not done that in a while during the Monday meeting.

We reached out to each city council member, the mayor and the city manager for comment. Anderson was the only council member who responded.

Cape Coral, which has a bigger population, confirmed its city manager makes $236,000 each year.

The catchup money for the Fort Myers city manager made sense to some people.

“It does seem like a lot of money,” Cal Teague said. “The 20% increase is substantial, but maybe he deserves it.”

Others still believe it was bad timing.

“Pitch in like everybody else’s had to pitch in and make some sacrifices,” Lyons said. “So I’m sorry. No. I don’t think it’s right.”

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