A proposal to add part-time administrative support to the mayor and council members of Antioch was postponed, with council members instead asking the city to consider hiring interns.
Mayor Lamar Thorpe had proposed the new spending at a council meeting in mid-December, but the item was delayed to allow three separate votes on the three part-time positions: one for mayor, one for districts 1 and 4; and one for Districts 2 and 3. At $18.53 to $25 an hour, the new positions would cost the city $45,000 to $65,000 a year, with money coming from the general fund.
Currently, the Secretary to the City Manager provides such assistance to Council and the Mayor. The new employees would help prepare and file documents, keep records and perform receptionist duties, according to the staff report.
Residents had mixed reactions to the idea of the new positions at Friday’s special council meeting.
“I believe that if a board member works somewhere else full time and either has minor children or an elderly person or someone they are responsible for, then they should have the option of having an assistant assist them in some of the city affairs. “said Leslie May.
Melissa Case expressed concern because other positions in the city are not filled.
“Why are we filling assistants when our other positions that we really need on city staff are not being filled?”
Bur Edgar Martinez suggested the city consider creating internships instead of permanent positions.
“We have a local college here, Los Medanos, and I think we need to give opportunities to students who are focusing on…political science or whatever,” he said. “I mean, to help them get their foot in the door.”
ProTem Mayor Tamisha Torres-Walker agreed, although at first she wanted a part-time secretary.
“It was my idea,” she said. “I was like, hey, this government hasn’t caught up with the growth of this city. And something has to be done, and council members often need help returning those phone calls and emails and attend these very important county, state and federal meetings, so that we can tap into the resources to be able to govern effectively.
However, she has since changed her mind, Torres-Walker said.
“The right direction will be internships,” she said. “It will be internships, not just because people might be upset that we are creating more jobs – because more jobs will be created, especially for a growing city that needs a functioning government – but because these should be positions that youth and young adults who live in this city have the opportunity to become public policy interns or fellows to learn how to work in local government.
Although Antioch has never offered separate administrative support for mayor or council members, a check of other towns of similar size shows that this is not unusual. In Richmond, the mayor has a handful of aides, while council members share a liaison but sometimes seek interns or part-time help.
In nearby Concord, city council members and the mayor receive support from the city manager’s administrative assistant, but can temporarily hire more assistants to help them, while in the smaller towns of Brentwood, members council and the mayor are assisted by the assistant city manager.
Even so, Thorpe, who has worked with interns in the past, said he preferred a permanent position.
“We train them… but what’s frustrating is that they leave (later),” he said of college interns.
City Attorney Thomas Smith, however, pointed out that there are legal differences between the positions of secretary and intern, and the board agreed to reconsider once those nuances are worked out.
The board also briefly discussed a possible 16% board salary increase — 5% for each of four years — that would take effect in 2025, but the item did not move forward.
The last time board members approved a raise was in 2019 — the first in 13 years — which took effect in 2021, bringing salaries to $1,604 a month. Each year, council must review the matter under city rules, the mayor said.
Thorpe was in favor of a raise, but Torres-Walker and Councilwoman Monica Wilson said they weren’t. Councilor Lori Ogorchock previously voted against a raise and Councilor Mike Barbanica was absent.