We learned last week that new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will earn $175,000 this year, the same salary as his predecessor Tom Menino. (Walsh also unveiled the salaries of his key staffers)

That got the Curiosity Desk wondering how his paycheck measures up against his fellow mayors across the country.

It's hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison with a simple salary number. Each city government operates in a unique way. Some have a strong mayor at the head of the org chart. Others are led by a city manager or a strong city council. Cities vary in size and, even in cities of a similar size, the scope of operations might be very different. To this end, we've crunched the numbers a few different ways and have included figures like budget, population, and number of city employees for context.


One way to look at it is to compare Boston with cities of similar size, by population. While the Boston metro area (including everywhere from Worcester to Nashua, N.H. to Providence, R.I.) ranks as the sixth most populated in the United States, the city itself doesn’t even crack the top 20. El Paso is slightly larger than Boston, while Seattle and Denver are slightly smaller.

It's interesting to note that all three cities are significantly larger in area than Boston. This means that there is more ground to cover when considering services like trash collection and landscaping in these cities, but it also means that Boston is much more densely populated. That provides it’s own unique set of challenges. Here's how the cities break down by area:

The most compelling comparison is Seattle, which is not only a similarly sized city, but also has a similar cost of living, and a cultural likeness (liberal, well-educated, innovative, lots of restaurants, strong arts and music scenes). Predictably, the mayors' salaries are pretty close, but Seattle's budget is significantly larger than Boston's. And Seattle has fewer city employees, too. One thing they are planning to spend that money on in the near future appears to be their lowest wage earners. In January, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced his intention to sign an executive order calling for a comprehensive plan to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. The city estimates that about 600 of their employees are currently making less than that.

El Paso, Texas

Mayor: Oscar Lessor

Style: Council-manager

Population: 672,538

Budget: $801.4 million

Salary: $45,000

City Manager: $238,960

Employees: 6,500


Mayor: Martin Walsh

Style: Strong mayor-council

Population: 636,479

Budget: $2.7 billion

Salary: $175,000

Employees: 17,000


Mayor: Ed Murray

Style: Mayor-council

Population: 634,535

Budget: $4.4 billion

Salary: $179,798

Employees: 11,350


Mayor: Michael Hancock

Population: 634,265

Style: Strong mayor-council

Budget: $2.37 billion

Mayor Salary: $150,406

Employees: 10,600


Oh, those Jesuits! Not only have they grabbed the top spot at the Vatican, but the S.J.'s at Boston College have also produced recent or current mayors for three of America's 50 largest cities: Minneapolis, Dallas, and Boston.

So how does Walsh stack up against his fellow BC Eagles? Pretty well, actually. In fact, he's crushing Dallas mayor Mike Rawling in terms of salary. While it's cheaper to live in Dallas than in Boston, Rawlings' comparatively meager $60,000 salary is about more than cost of living. Dallas, like a number of the cities we are looking at here, runs a council-manager style of government. So, while they have a mayor, the real head-honcho is the City Manager. Time and again, with this style of city government, the City Manager makes a good deal more than not just the mayor of his/her city, but the mayor of a comparatively-sized city that doesn't have a city manager. In Dallas, where their budget and number of employees are similar to Boston, city manager A.C. Gonzalez pulls in $400,000 a year, more than twice what Marty Walsh earns.

Walsh (Class of '09)

City: Boston, MA

Style: Strong mayor-council

Population: 636,479

Budget: $2.7 billion

Salary: $175,000

Employees: Approx. 17,000

Raymond Thomas Rybak (Class of '78)*

City: Minneapolis, MN

Style: Weak mayor-council

Population: 392,880

Budget: $1.01 billion (2013)

Salary: $105,568 (2013)

*Rybek served as mayor from January 1, 2002-- January 2, 2014

Mike Rawlings (class of '76)

City: Dallas

Style: Council-manager

Population: 1.24 million

Budget: $2.7 billion

Salary: $60,000

Employees: Approx. 12,500 people

*Dallas city manager, AC Gonzalez, makes $400,000 a year.


Boston is far and away the biggest city in New England, but here, we look at the largest city in each New England state plus Boston’s next-door neighbor- Cambridge.

Predictably, Walsh is the top earner among his fellow New England mayors, but one surprise is that Bridgeport, Conn. Mayor Bill Finch, while not quite nipping at his heels, is in the ballpark. This despite the fact that Bridgeport is a quarter of the size of Boston, has about 20 percent of its budget and far fewer employees. Bridgeport is, however, America's third richest city, according to USA Today.

Following the trend of city managers earning more than mayors, Portland, Maine City Manager Mark Ress' $146,598 salary is higher than that of mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, a city two-and-a-half times larger than Portland. Taveras took a 10 percent pay cut a few years back as he leveled across the board cuts to pull Providence back from the brink of bankruptcy, but even if he didn't, Rees would still have him beat. Cambridge City Manager Richard Rossi’s $330,000 salary is almost twice that of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.


Mayor: Martin Walsh

Style: Strong mayor-council

Population: 636,479

Budget: $2.7 billion

Salary: $175,000

Employees: 17,000

Providence, RI

Mayor: Angel Taveras

Style: Mayor-council

Population: 178,432

Budget: $662 million (including schools)

Salary: $112,500

Employees (including schools): 5,723

Bridgeport, Conn.

Mayor: Bill Finch

Style: Mayor-council

Population: 146,425

Budget: $500 million

Salary: $132,459

Employees: 1,500

Manchester, N.H.

Mayor: Ted Gatsas

Style: Strong mayor (Mayor is also the chair of the board of alderman and the board of the school committee)

Population: 110,209

Budget (including schools): $158 Million

Salary: $68,000

Employees (including schools): 2,500

Cambridge, Mass.

Mayor: David Maher

Style: Council-manager (Mayor is selected by the council from among themselves and serves as the chair of the council and school committee)

Population: 106,471

Budget (including schools): $507 million

Salary: $112,293*

Employees (including schools): 2,771

*City Manager Richard Rossi earns $330,000 a year

Portland, Maine

Mayor: Michael Brennan

Population: 66,214

Style: Council-manager

Budget (including schools): $311.5 million

Salary: $67,041*

Employees (including schools): 2,585

*City Manager Mark Rees earns $146,598 a year

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post listed Henrietta Davis as the mayor of Cambridge. The current mayor of Cambridge is David Maher