Wilmington harbor master earns hours of overtime Worth every penny, port director says

August 25, 1991|By Cris Barrish | Cris Barrish,Wilmington News Journal

WILMINGTON, Del. -- A blue-collar worker without a high school diploma draws one of the city's fattest paychecks -- thanks to a ton of overtime.

Robert F. Senseny, harbor master at the Port of Wilmington, made $39,000 through the first six months of 1991. At that rate, he would make $78,000 this year, more than any city employee.

With six weeks of vacation due, Mr. Senseny might not reach $78,000 -- but he'll still outpace most of his white-collar counterparts.

Mr. Senseny, 63, is in charge of mooring ships at the port. His salary is $41,000, but he's regularly called in for overtime late at night or on weekends. The last four years he's averaged $29,000 in overtime at $31.26 an hour, 1 1/2 times his regular rate.

Department heads have fixed salaries, with no overtime allowed -- but port supervisors are exempt from that clause of the city's personnel code.

Last year Mr. Senseny made $70,485, making him Wilmington's fourth-highest-paid city employee, behind Chief Municipal Court Judge Alfred Fraczkowski, Mayor Daniel S. Frawley and Gary Fullman, the mayor's top aide. Of Mr. Senseny's income, $31,200 came from overtime pay.

"He's worth every nickel of it," Port Director Edward A. Wolf said. "He's responsible for docking all the ships. He tells them where to come, where to tie. It's a very responsible job. It takes a very smart guy."

And a durable one. Mr. Senseny has been working at the Marine Terminal since 1944.

"I started off at 68 cents an hour," he said. "I started as a laborer, moved to lift-truck operator, crane operator, supervisor, and down the line."

Mr. Senseny said that he also plans for incoming ships, makes daily assignments for labor at the port and oversees its maintenance.

He said he's never turned down overtime, often working 80 to 100 hours a week. But he also managed to raise six children with his wife, Betty. They live in Penn Acres near New Castle.

"I enjoy this job a lot," he said. "It's something new every day. Different ships, different people, new cargo and ways of handling it."

As for the overtime, Mr. Senseny said he got used to it as a teen-ager.

"My old manager had me working seven days and nights a week," he said. "I asked for one night off and I was told I better start looking for another job.

"I just wanted to go down to the beach to see my wife, who was then my girlfriend. They let me go, but with a lot of protest. But I came back right away and about wrecked driving in my sleep. I was told, 'We expect you to work.'

"The overtime is something you get used to after a while. If I wasn't doing it, I'd be sitting at home pining."

Mr. Senseny's salary, like most port expenses, is paid with money generated by fees charged to ships that use it. And Mr. Fullman said that it pays to have just Mr. Senseny docking the ships, especially since ships come in at odd hours.

"Sometimes overtime is a preferable alternative to hiring another person," Mr. Fullman said. "With another person you're not only increasing the base pay, but also increasing the benefits."

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