UPDATED: Falls Village Manager Tops List of Highest Paid Administrators
Although Mark Fitzgerald was the highest paid public administrator in 2011, and the second highest paid in 2012, Falls Village Board members say he's worth every cent.
This article was updated at 5:22 p.m. Wednesday to reflect corrected information
If you had the choice to feed your family on Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s salary, or Menomonee Falls Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald’s salary, you may be inclined choose the former.
However, according to a database compiled and published by the Sheboygan Press, you may want to head to Wisconsin’s largest village rather than its largest city. The Sheboygan Press database includes public employee compensation from 2011 and 2012 for all 91 towns and villages in Wisconsin with populations of 10,000 or more.
The database includes salaries for mayors, city administrators or managers, police chiefs, and fire chiefs.
According to their data, Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald raked in a gross 2011 total income of $167,192, which made him the highest paid of all the employees in the database. In 2011, Fitzgerald earned a base pay of $149,692, logged $17,500 categorized as overtime or extra pay, and received $35,910 in benefits. In 2012, his base pay was listed as $151,000, which is second only to Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt.
According to the database, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, and four other top-level Milwaukee administrators earned a base pay of $147,336. Menomonee Falls Police Chief Anna Ruzinksi’s $114,982 base 2012 was also ranked sixth highest in the state. However, Ruzinski also become the village’s Director of Protective Services, which also encompasses the fire department. Fire Chief Jeffrey Hevey’s base salary was listed as $102,378 in 2012.
Every year, the Menomonee Falls Village Board sets the salary for its top administrators. They held firmly that Fitzgerald deserves to be among the top, if not the top, paid administrators in the state.
“I’m a strong believer in pay for play,” said Village Trustee Jame Jeskewitz. “If the person does the job they should be compensated for it. I’d be willing to bet there isn’t another community that has had the progress in development that we have”
Jeskewitz said Fitzgerald has worked tirelessly to bring significant developments to the Falls in a time when investment in other Wisconsin communities has been stagnant. In the past few years, Fitzgerald has helped forge deals that brought Actuant Corp., Eaton Corp., Woodman’s, and a Wacker-Neuson expansion to Falls among many.
However, Jeskewitz said Fitzgerald’s major accomplishment was a multi-million dollar deal to keep a new Kohl’s headquarters development in Menomonee Falls. The retail giant announced it would stay in Falls last year.
“He was negotiating for a long time to keep them,” Jeskewitz said. “If it wasn’t for him, Kohl’s wouldn’t have landed in our backyard.”
Jeskewitz also acknowledged that the Radisson Hotel development has been filled with its challenges, but commended Fitzgerald for implementing the necessary actions to safeguard the village and taxpayers from future liability associated with the hotel.
Trustee Jeff Steliga said Fitzgerald’s salary is somewhat deceiving, since he actually handles the workload of two positions. When former Community Development Director Bill Freisleben retired on the final day of 2009, Fitzgerald assumed the responsibilities of his position. Freisleben primarily focused on marketing the community, and working externally to forge deals with prospective developers.
Steliga said the board agreed to increase Fitzgerald’s salary by 25 percent of Freisleben’s to compensate the extra workload. He said Freisleben earned between $80,000 and $90,000.
“Rather than have someone else fill that position Mark said he would take that responsibility,” Steliga said. “We looked at it as a cost-saving measure. While individually he’s expensive as a village manager, he’s doing the job of two.”
And cost saving has been a consistent theme in the corridors of Village Hall. For the past several years, the village has operated with a bare-bones budget. The village tax levy increased less than 1 percent in 2013. Over the past 6 years, staff levels have been reduced from 233 in 2007 to 180 in 2013. Fitzgerald said in October 2012 that staffing levels are at their trimmest levels, and any more cuts in the future could impact services for residents.
“We’ve got an excellent village manager, and we pay him accordingly,” said Trustee Dennis Farrell. “He’s done a good job and brought a great deal of professionalism to Village Hall.”
All seven Village Board members were contacted for comment Tuesday, but not all had not responded by 4 p.m.
Correction: The original article posted indicated that Mr. Fitzgerald earned $17,500 in overtime pay. However, Fitzgerald is not eligible for overtime as he is a salaried employee. That amount would fall under the "extra pay" title in the database.