What's a city administrator worth? In Anne Arundel: That depends on whether Annapolis wants a full- or part-time mayor.

November 29, 1995

WHEN ALFRED HOPKINS became mayor of Annapolis six years ago, he was smart enough to know he needed somebody to run the city while he cut ribbons, gave tours and attended to all the other ceremonial duties he so loves.

So he hired Michael Mallinoff as city administrator, paying him $74,000 a year. It was a pretty brash move -- not so much because the administrator's responsibilities didn't merit that kind of money, but because the mayor also was drawing a nice paycheck -- $52,000 a year.

Today, as Mr. Mallinoff leaves to become Newport, R.I.'s city manager, few would argue that he hasn't done a good job. But his impending departure once again raises the question of whether taxpayers in a city with a full-time mayor making more than any other mayor in Maryland except Baltimore's Kurt L. Schmoke should have to pay half again as much for an administrator.

Of course they shouldn't. Either a well-paid mayor oversees day-to-day operations, perhaps with the help of a modestly rewarded assistant, or a well-paid city manager runs things while a part-time mayor attends to ceremonial duties and is compensated accordingly. The Hopkins administration has had it both ways these last six years. That's not right.

Six of the nine City Council members have indicated they will not support such a large salary for Mr. Mallinoff's replacement. Granted, some of those have an eye on the mayor's office themselves and may want to nip in the bud any thoughts of officially reducing the mayor's power and hence his salary. That doesn't make their position any less right. As it is now written, the city charter provides for a full-time mayor who runs the government. That, therefore, is the system Annapolis should be using.

This is not to say a town manager system might not work better than the so-called "weak mayor" model the city has. But a town manager system should be put in place only after citizens vote to change the charter, formally divesting the mayor of certain powers and investing a town manager with both the authority to run daily operations as well as the power to influence policy -- something Mr. Mallinoff did not have. Until that happens, whoever replaces Mr. Mallinoff should expect to make less, whether or not Mayor Hopkins decides to do more.

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