Encinitas’ chief administrator will be one of the better paid city managers among similar municipalities in the region after City Council action Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Council members voted 5-0 to give City Manager Karen Brust a $7,283 boost to her annual base salary as well as a $20,000 increase to her deferred compensation plan and an additional nine hours of paid vacation annually.
“The city manager has done a great job in the last year,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “One of the key things is that we had a staff reorganization, and a number of vacancies ... that we needed to fill and she’s done an excellent job of filling out her team so that we’re able to accomplish the City Council’s priorities.”
With the salary increase, Brust will receive $250,043 in annual base pay, which does not include health and retirement benefits. The wage figure does not include the addition to the deferred compensation plan, a savings account untaxed unless the money is withdrawn.
In arriving at the salary figure, council members evaluated Brust’s performance and compared her compensation to cohorts in 11 other cities with comparably sized populations.
Brust’s current salary of $242,760 ranked 10th among the 12, while the increase brings her up to fifth, Blakespear said. She noted female managers’ salaries among the cities studied were in the lower half.
“It’s important that the city manager be fairly compensated and compensated in line with her city manager peers,” Blakespear said. “So we evaluated other city managers and cities similar to ours, and she warrants an increase.”
The longevity of a city manager with one organization is notoriously short-lived, given that the job is subject to the political whims of elected officials. The average tenure of a city manager in one agency is about five years.
Brust is now in her fourth year at the helm of Encinitas City Hall, following stints as city manager in San Juan Capistrano and Del Mar.
A longtime Encinitas resident, Brust worked as a finance director among several different public agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority, before advancing to her city manager’s career.
In December 2017, she received the 30 Years of Service Award from the International City/County Management Association in its 103rd annual conference.
Encinitas council members praised Brust for putting together an efficient team of city administrators and achieving council goals, including the recent approval of the Highway 101 streetscape project in Leucadia. Getting to that point with the plan required extensive dialogue and negotiations with the California Coastal Commission.
“Our city manager has put together a stellar team that has really accomplished a lot in the last year, and allowed the city to move forward on a lot of our goals.” said Councilman Joe Mosca, who worked with Blakespear in evaluating the city manager’s performance and compensation.
“She’s done an excellent job and she deserves a good performance review and salary increase,” Mosca said.
No one from the public appeared at the meeting to speak to the council about the city manager’s performance and proposed contract amendments. Brust made no comment about the proposal and the council’s decision while the panel was in session.
In voting to approve the contract changes, the council agreed to make them retroactive to June 1, with a June 30, 2019, expiration date. The decision reflected a city policy mandate that the manager’s performance evaluation and compensation considerations are supposed to occur in June of each year. That schedule presumably is meant to coincide with the council’s budget review for the next fiscal year, starting July 1.
“It’s a joy to work with the city manager and the idea that she has been a resident of our community for 20 or so years is one of the things that makes her great,” Councilman Tony Kranz said. “She’s very active and available to the community.”