Citing increased workload, one city official salary could increase 20%

Portsmouth City Council convened on Feb. 8 in regular session at the Shawnee State University Ballroom. Photo by Patrick Keck.

PORTSMOUTH — In charge of moving Portsmouth forward with economic development and infrastructure improvements, Community Development Director Tracy Shearer could see her salary improve dramatically.

Currently receiving just less than $50,000 per year, her salary would increase by 20% depending on how Portsmouth City Council takes on the legislation, which passed the City Manager’s agenda Monday night.

The reasons behind the raise, which would see salary go to nearly $60,000, were mentioned in a memo from Shearer to City Manager Sam Sutherland and further discussed in an interview with the Portsmouth Daily Times.

What warrants this raise she said is the increased workload she will take on in building the city’s Human Rights Commission, an ordinance that passed the council with unanimous support Aug. 24.

“The Human Rights Commission isn’t a program or agency already in place functioning, so I believe that in doing so would require a lot of research in developing these standards, looking at what other cities are doing, and creating an agency to educate and assist the community so that everyone feels safe,” she said in an email Friday, where she and her department is tasked with the responsibility of building and operating the commission.

Council has not determined whether a wage increase is justified, voting to take no action during Monday’s City Managers session. It will be revisited during the Feb. 22 meeting.

Mayor Kevin Johnson had many questions on the matter Feb. 8, where he noted his appointed members to the Fair Housing Board, whose same three members would work on HRC, throughout the past three to four years have never had a formal meeting.

“I’m not really in favor of doing raises on things that might happen,” he said, where Shearer and other non-union city employees also just recently received a raise.

1st Ward councilperson Sean Dunne surmised the raise actually comes down to Shearer’s work as a whole, where she has secured grants for projects such as the Dog Park and Skatepark.

“Tracy works very hard and I think she feels that she is getting some duties added through this Human Rights Commission,” added City Manager Sam Sutherland, who worked alongside her with the distribution of CARES Act funding.

5th Ward councilperson Edwin Martell chimed in that the work with the Master Plan would not have happened without Shearer’s work, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon also reminding the council how the director secured a grant for the schools.

“Yes, it’s her job,” said Gordon of the increased workload. “You fund the position, not the person.”

Sutherland and Shearer said the key difference between the board and the commission are their respective applications, where the board focuses on unlawful housing practices regarding rent, lending and the sale of homes. HRC is more broad, its ordinance including reviewing reports of discriminatory practices and the enforcement of the Discrimination Prohibited ordinance.

That ordinance, among several protections, passed council July in a 5-0 vote and granted widespread protection for the city’s LGBTQ+ residents.

“It’s great that Portsmouth is ahead of the curve, in the state of Ohio, when it comes to ensuring people are not discriminated against,” Dunne told the Times following the July 13 vote. “It’s probably one of the most important pieces of legislation that I’ve been involved with since I started in January 2018.”

With this new role, Shearer said her goals would be public outreach and awareness, done by tying the HRC to the city website with appropriate resources available.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.