St. Clair Shores City Council approves city manager raise

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 13, 2021




ST. CLAIR SHORES — After a first year on the job filled with crises, City Council members voted unanimously to give City Manager Matthew Coppler a 3% raise retroactive to Oct. 7.

“Overall, I would say his evaluation was excellent. Mr. Coppler has jumped in and done a terrific job,” Mayor Kip Walby said at the Dec. 21 City Council meeting.

Coppler began as the new city manager of St. Clair Shores Oct. 7, 2019, following the retirement of Mike Smith. Less than a month later, the city discovered it had houses with known lead service lines with levels of lead exceeding the action level of 15 ppb (parts per billion). St. Clair Shores determined action to be taken on that matter, and then, about five months later, COVID-19 came to Michigan, causing the closure of city buildings and necessitating changes to the way the city ran.

“I don’t think we missed a step at all with him coming in. I don’t think I need to tell you some of the challenges we’ve had,” Walby said.

Unlike his predecessors, part of Coppler’s contract called for him to have annual evaluations by members of City Council, which would be used to determine whether or not he would receive a pay increase. All seven members of City Council were requested to participate in the evaluation of eight categories related to his performance: professionalism, communication, community relations, leadership, financial management, management of the organization, relationship with City Council and policy execution. Six members completed and submitted evaluations of whether Coppler needs improvement, met expectations or exceeded expectations in a given area.

“No more than a month after he started, we got hit with lead in the water,” Councilman John Caron said. “That was really his trial by fire from the beginning.”

He said he appreciated how Coppler had ushered St. Clair Shores through the COVID-19 crisis and challenged the status quo.

“That’s something I do really appreciate, that the leader of the organization is always looking for ways we can improve,” he said.

He pointed out that Coppler was taking a risk previous city managers hadn’t by asking to be evaluated.

“Past city managers got (the Administrative Regulation 4) pay raise,” which typically fell in line with raises negotiated with the city’s unions, Caron explained. “The fact that he had the courage to have this in his contract, that his raise can only be done with council and after an evaluation” speaks highly of Coppler.

“This has been an atypical first year,” Councilwoman Candice Rusie said. “I don’t know if you’re bringing us bad luck or what, but you were hit with a lot.”

Nevertheless, she said she thought Coppler was doing a “fantastic” job.

“Never have I felt more certain that we have a very good leader in charge of everything that will see us through in the best way possible,” she said. “You’re finding ways we can improve and you’re not just accepting this is the way things have always been done.”

In the next year, council members said they would like to see Coppler work to help department heads become better leaders, hire quality staff as retirements occur, maintain city finances and participate, as he is able, in some of the fun events in St. Clair Shores, when those events can safely occur.

Council voted unanimously to approve Coppler’s 3% pay increase.