Cedar Rapids council recommends retention bonus for city manager

Sheri McMichael, executive director of Variety in Iowa, listens as Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz speaks Oct. 19 at the ribbon-cutting for the new inclusive playground at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids. The Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday will consider a $25,000-per-year retention bonus aimed at keeping Pomeranz, 59, with the city until he retires. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Sheri McMichael, executive director of Variety in Iowa, listens as Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz speaks Oct. 19 at the ribbon-cutting for the new inclusive playground at Noelridge Park in Cedar Rapids. The Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday will consider a $25,000-per-year retention bonus aimed at keeping Pomeranz, 59, with the city until he retires. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids City Council is recommending a retention bonus so its popular city manager doesn’t leave for another job before he retires.

The plan would give City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, 59, a $25,000-per-year bonus if he stays in his role in good standing through age 65, or a total of $131,027 paid out around March 18, 2023.

If he leaves early, for any reason, he would not get any of the money.

“I think it is imperative that we do whatever we can do to retain Jeff until he retires,” said council member Ralph Russell, who spearheaded the plan with colleague Kris Gulick. “He is a valuable part of the city’s ability to deliver services to our residents. He is a keeper, no question about it.”

Russell credited Pomeranz for hiring the right people, being an “excellent spokesman for our city” and doing his job “exceedingly well.”

The City Council will vote on the retention plan, along with Pomeranz’s annual salary, when it meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 101 First St. SE.

Pomeranz is the highest paid city manager in the state. His base salary is $278,875, plus he receives $90,458 in deferred compensation and $300 per month for a personal vehicle.

Should Pomeranz stay beyond 65, he’d be eligible for a $25,000 bonus each full year thereafter.

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The city manager, city clerk and city attorney are the only three city employees who report to the council. All three will have their 2018 salaries up for approval Tuesday.

Pomeranz, who was recruited to be Cedar Rapids city manager from the same position in West Des Moines in 2010, is recommended for a 3.5 percent raise. City Clerk Amy Stephenson and City Attorney Jim Flitz are each up for a 4 percent raise.

Gulick said the lower percentage raise for Pomeranz, who received a 5 percent raise last year, was in response to the retention plan.

Gulick and Russell said while Pomeranz has never threatened to leave, they expect he gets other job offers.

Gulick, who researched options, said few people are going into the profession of city manager, which makes Pomeranz an even more desirable candidate.

“I don’t think he is looking, but that doesn’t mean a headhunter doesn’t tap him on the shoulder and offer him a job,” Gulick said. “It happens all the time, especially because of the industry. ... I think we have a person who is doing a fabulous job, and we don’t want to lose him.”

While the retention plan is not tied to his salary, the City Council has traditionally evaluated Pomeranz in the fourth quarter, typically in November or December.

Incoming Mayor Brad Hart said he supports the increase and doesn’t see a problem with the outgoing council making the decision in its final meeting.

Hart is among five new members on the nine-member council, who take office Jan. 2.

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Hart called such bonuses increasingly common and he said it makes sense for the existing council, which has worked with Pomeranz for years, to make the decision.

“It seems to me it is appropriate for them to make this decision now,” Hart said. “I love the fact he is incented to stay around.”

Pomeranz said he has enjoyed and valued his position as city manager.

“I deeply appreciate the confidence that the mayor and City Council have placed in me,” he said, “and I look forward to continuing to serve the city of Cedar Rapids as city manager in the future.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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