Oswego’s part-time pol

Need a job? Then run for mayor of Oswego. Sure it won’t be easy, but who wouldn’t want to be mayor? The only catch: the job is part time and so is the pay… $40,000 a year. That’s a pretty lucrative part time job, especially considering that many people right now would love to have a full time job that pays that much.

While there aren’t any benefits, the job comes with a lot of other perks. Randy Bateman, the mayor, has his own office and a secretary; he can veto all Common Council actions including specific line items within a budget resolution; he can only vote in ties, but always gets to be heard. Who wouldn’t want a job where people had to listen to you? And he appoints the City Attorney and City Clerk. He’s not a superhero, but with so many powers and a four-year term to ride out controversies, the mayor’s job is probably one of the best part time jobs on the market.

And because Bateman will not seek re-election this year, it could be your job come November. All someone has to do to run for mayor is take care of some paperwork, knock on a few doors, shake a few hands and kiss a few babies. Then it’s just a matter of sitting back and letting the election results roll in.

Mayor Bateman visited Oswego State several weeks ago to discuss his job and answer questions from students. Bateman was a county legislator in the ‘90s and Fourth City Ward Alderman from 1998 to 2006. After former mayor John Gosek resigned in disgrace and scandal over text messages sent to underage girls, Bateman was left to steer the ship. He had the unique distinction of being alderman, council president and acting mayor all at the same time. He was elected to a full four-year term in 2007.

Bateman never intended to be mayor and has kept his job as chief radiation protection technician at Nine Mile Nuclear Station. Working his day job and serving as mayor has burnt him out, Bateman said.

"I put in 40 hours plus at my other job, and then the mayor’s job is anywhere from 35 to 40 [hours]," Bateman told The Oswegonian during his recent visit to campus. "Like they say, be careful what you wish for."

Most of Bateman’s tenure as mayor has been spent balancing the budget- the mayor is the budget officer of the city- and running city government while trying to repair the damaged reputation of the mayor’s office. He fields heaps of calls, e-mails and the occasional visitor during his office hours. With all the headaches and work, it’s a wonder anyone would want the job. He’d either have to have a strong sense of public service, or be in it for the money. But as much as Bateman represents the present, he also represents a bridge between a past most Oswegonians would prefer to forget and the future.

That future was the topic of debate for the Administrative Services Committee last month. It is charged with recommending salary changes for the mayor to the full Common Council. None of the recommendations they make would take effect until the next term in 2012.

The issue is that the part time position of mayor comes with the option for the mayor to appoint a full time executive assistant. There hasn’t been one for years, but if the new mayor chooses to appoint someone, the city has the added burden of a full time position with benefits. That’s in addition to the mayor’s salary. The executive assistant’s salary has ranged from $12,200 in the 1970s, to roughly $60,000 about 10 years ago. The feeling of the Common Council is that the position isn’t fiscally responsible in the current economic climate. Clearly, the job needs to be reined in, or eliminated all together.

Actually, now might be a good time to pick a candidate for mayor and befriend him. Maybe he or she could be his new executive assistant. If that doesn’t sound too appealing, try going to Fulton where the mayor, who has full-time office hours, makes a modest $28,000 a year.

Clearly something needs to change. The possibility of having a $100,000 plus executive duo in the near future—plus benefits—is staggering. In a city of less than 20,000 people, that is some fat that needs to be trimmed. If you think something should be done, don’t just sit there. Get up and take action. Make an effort to change this. Write, call and e-mail the Common Council, not at all at once, and let them know how you feel. Or, you could just run for mayor. After all, the salary’s not too bad and the perks are really good for a part-time job.