Law. Co. natives Cameron, Russell embroiled in Republic salary flap

By: 
Ethan Gray

Cameron

Russell

In a recent story spotlighted by KOLR 10 Investigates, it was made public that Republic City Administrator David Cameron, a Miller native, makes $262,571 per year. To put that into perspective, not even the city manager of Springfield makes that amount, despite being a much larger city in terms of population and having more resources to manage. Springfield is home to nearly 200,000 residents which makes the city manager salary of $246,000 justifiable. Republic only boasts a population one-tenth of that size, yet finds its city administrator making more.
But that wasn't always the case. Cameron earned $128,065—less than half his current salary—a mere six years ago when he took the position.
Republic Mayor Matt Russell, originally from Mt. Vernon, during his interview with KOLR 10 on the matter, justified the embroiled Cameron's sky-high, taxpayer funded salary, saying, "… you base it on the value he brings to the city. That value is $1.2 billion in investment."
Although, when we asked Russell for an example of a business Cameron brought to Republic, he didn't answer.

'Investment' a strange consideration for salary
Republic has seen more than its fair share of growth in commerce recently, which poses the question, is economic investment a valid platform on which to base a city administrator's salary? Per our research, the industry standard for administrator pay is based on multiple factors, but we found not one instance where economic growth was weighed.
Cathy Stepp, city administrator for the City of Branson said, "Typical foundations upon which to decide salary depends on the following: A. Overall budget of the city; B. Size of organization (employees, departments, infrastructure responsibilities); C. Professional experience and/or education."
Jason Gage, the city manager of Springfield, said that oftentimes, the salary of a city administrator/manager is determined by looking at the salaries of those in a similar sized city with similar responsibilities.
In this case, that should most likely place the salary of Cameron closer to that of Ozark City Administrator Stephen Childers, who makes $150,000 annually.
As Stepp mentioned, another factor that often determines salary is the education and work experience of the administrator. Cameron currently has an associate's degree, as well as a bachelor's degree, and has been in the business of city administration for about 17 years. Gage, conversely, has a bachelor's in pre-law, as well as a master's degree in public administration, and also has nearly 30 years of experience in the field—yet still makes less than Cameron.

Major spike in pay during cash-strapped pandemic
Cameron also received a pay increase of $60,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a downturn in the commerce of many communities. The pay increase officially took effect in August of 2021. During the pandemic, a time when Cameron's paycheck ballooned more than 35 percent, the median household income was down in Republic, employment also declined according to the U.S. census.
 
Cameron's career history
Cameron's previous city management experience came from more than 10 years in Siloam Springs, Ark. Siloam Springs has a population that is nearly the same as Republic, the city staff is also of comparable size. Despite the similarities, the range of salary for the city administrator of Siloam Springs is about $100,000 less than that of Republic. As reported in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette on Aug. 31, 2014, Cameron eventually resigned from the position citing differences with the board of directors. Cameron also stated that he wished to spend more time with his family. He took the job at Republic less than two years later.

Cameron's predecessor speaks
Previous Republic City Administrator Jim Krischke held the position from 2010-2016. Krischke notes that, at the end of the day, it is up to the city council to decide what factors they take into account when determining the salary of the administrator, but also mentions that Republic's growth was already happening prior to Cameron's tenure.
"Republic has been primed for an explosion in development since 2005," Krischke said, "[Cameron] just happens to be the person in charge when things took off."
The primer Krischke speaks of is the former mayor Jim Collins and former city administrator Dean Thompson, who Krischke says started this economic growth.
"They were the two that really had the vision," said Krischke "Everyone since then has just built on it."
*Multiple attempts were made to reach David Cameron for comment on his salary, but return communication wasn't made. Mayor Matt Russell was contacted as well, but he did not respond either.

Republic City Administrator David Cameron's salary history with the city:
2018 - $128,065
2019 - $154,639
2020 - $170,000
2021 - $228,999
2022 - $250,067
2023 - $262,571

Recent salary of similar positions in the area:
Former Branson City Administrator Stanley Dobbins - $199,703
Branson City Administrator Cathy Stepp - $164,700.64
Nixa City Administrator Jimmy Liles - $160,430
Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers - $147,804.80

- Salaries originally broadcast by KOLR 10 Investigates, May 3, 2023.

 

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Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712
www.lawrencecountyrecord.com

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