Westport boosts first selectman salary to $150K

An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020. The building has been closed to the public since min-March due to the coronavirus.

An exterior of Westport Town Hall in Westport, Conn., on Friday Apr. 17, 2020. The building has been closed to the public since min-March due to the coronavirus.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The town’s next first selectman’s salary will be $150,000, up from its current amount of $104,925, after the Representative Town Meeting overwhelmingly voted for the pay hike at a meeting last week.

Most were in favor of the increase, as the first selectman position had not had a salary increase from 2003 to 2019, according to Westport personnel and human resources director Ralph Chetcuti. The position did have a small bump in 2019, when it went from $101,475 to its current position.

However, there were some who argued that the increase was too steep to be done all at once, including Jay Keenan, who represents District 2 and was the lone “no” vote on the proposal.

“I think the optics of taking a position and increasing by about 45 percent are bad optics,” he said.

Keenan, a member of the RTM employee compensation committee, had voiced previous concerns in September at a joint meeting of the compensation and the finance committees, but ultimately voted to refer the proposal to the full RTM. But this time, he remained staunch in his position that the raise should be done in at least two phases.

Many on the RTM said the increase is reflective of the amount of work that a first selectman does.

“This is our CEO, for better or for worse,” said Karen Kramer, who represents District 5. “The town has to be run like a business. Is this an unreasonable amount? Not really. Not for what they do.”

Chetcuti’s research also showed that the Westport’s first selectman salary was much lower than those in many neighboring towns, including Fairfield, where the position carries a salary of $145,072, before benefits.

Lisa Newman, who represents District 8, echoed Kramer’s thoughts and said the increase will widen and elevate the pool of candidates for the position.

“We don’t want to limit the position of first selectman — the CEO of the town — to those who can afford to take the position,” she said.