Durham County

Bull City Politics: How top Durham City Hall pay stacks up against Raleigh, Chapel Hill

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield
Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield City of Durham

The three city employees who answer directly to the Durham City Council got raises this week: manager Tom Bonfield, attorney Patrick Baker and clerk Diana Schreiber.

All three were evaluated in closed meetings before the council approved their raises Monday night.

Bonfield, who has been city manager for 10 years, got a $9,366 raise.

Baker, who has been attorney for the past decade, got an $8,614 raise.

Schreiber, who was hired as clerk less than a year ago, got a $2,700 raise.

Here’s what they’re making now:

Bonfield: $243,503

Baker: 223,982

Schreiber: $92,700

Raleigh salaries

Raleigh City Manager Ruffin L. Hall makes $249,107 a year. Raleigh City Attorney Robin Tatum Currin makes $220,000 and clerk Gail G. Smith makes $141,529.

Raleigh’s has about 465,000 people compared to the city of Durham’s population of 268,000 people.

Chapel Hill salaries

In Chapel Hill, new Town Manager Maurice Jones makes $210,000 a year. Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos makes $182,907. And Town Clerk Sabrina Oliver, who also serves as communications and public affairs director, makes $110,402 a year.

Chapel Hill has roughly 60,000 people, or less than a quarter of Durham’s population.

The managers of Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill all make more than $200,000 a year, though their populations vary widely. And Chapel Hill’s clerk makes about $18,000 more than Durham’s clerk, though Oliver has additional duties.

Raleigh and Durham’s city attorneys make close to the same salary. Currin was hired this summer, while Baker has worked for Durham since 1997 and served briefly as city manager before Bonfield was hired.

Durham County Manager Wendell Davis’ salary was $217,030 as of May 2017.

Durham City Attorney, Patrick Baker, awaits the start of a City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday, August 6, 2018. Julia Wall jwall@newsobserver.com

Pierce Freelon appointed

Pierce Freelon, founder of the Afrofuturism maker space in downtown Durham, ran for mayor in 2017. He didn’t make it through the primary, which narrowed the race to council members Farad Ali and Steve Schewel. Schewel went on to win the general election.

But Freelon hasn’t left the political scene.

He applied for the council seat vacated by Schewel and made the short list. But he lost out to Javiera Caballero, whom the council appointed in February. And now he’s going the route that many elected officials take before running: an advisory board appointment.

The council appointed him to the seat designated for an African American man on the Durham Human Relations Commission. He was sworn in at Monday’s council meeting.

Pierce Freelon was appointed by the Durham City Council to the Durham Human Relations Commission in October 2018. He ran for mayor in 2017. Casey Toth ctoth@heraldsun.com

Freelon joins another former Durham City Council candidate on the commission: John Rooks, who is vice chair of the commission chaired by Diane Standaert. Rooks ran for the council’s Ward 2 seat and made it through the 2017 primary before losing to Mark-Anthony Middleton.

Other former council candidates who joined advisory boards this year include Dolly Reaves, who was appointed to the Mayor’s Council for Women, and LeVon Barnes, who was appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee, which encourages citizen participation in the Durham Community Development Block Grant Program. They both ran for Ward 2 and were defeated in the 2017 primary.

Staff writers Tammy Grubb and Anna Johnson contributed to this story.

Bull City Politics is an occasional Durham politics column by Durham government reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan. She live-tweets council meetings. Follow her at @dawnbvaughan and the hashtag #BullCitypol on Twitter.