Metra directors approve 21% raise for top executive, but it's not unanimous
Metra board members approved a salary increase of about 21% including retirement benefits for the agency's chief Wednesday, but the vote wasn't unanimous.
Executive Director Jim Derwinski, who assumed a leadership role at the rail agency in late 2017, will see his base earnings rise from $285,000 to $305,000 retroactive to Jan. 2, 2021, and another boost on Jan. 1, 2022, to $314,000.
Metra will also add $15,000 to Derwinski's annual 401(k) contribution and $26,000 to another retirement fund for public employees.
"I think he's an outstanding leader, and we're blessed to have him," Metra Director and Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said. But he and another board member, Stephan Palmer of LaGrange, voted against the pay hike.
"The timing is bad," Craig said, citing the ongoing pandemic and economic situation. "I can't quantify a 21.4% increase."
Board Chairman Romayne Brown, however, noted that Derwinski had not received a salary increase since 2018.
"He has worked hard in these trying times. He has been a strong leader and innovator and is looking to modernize our system," she said.
Officials said Derwinski was underpaid compared to his peers at other commuter railroads.
"We need to work to keep our executive staff and all our staff and treat them fairly," Metra Director and former CEO Don Orseno said.