May 4, 2023 - News

City-County Council becomes a real(ish) job

A photo of Andy Nielsen speaking at a campaign event.

Democrat Andy Nielsen, who won a primary election Tuesday, says he plans to make the City-County Council his full-time job if he wins in November. Photo: Courtesy of Andy Nielsen's campaign

As the dust settled on a wild primary night in Indianapolis, one victorious candidate signaled a new direction for the City-County Council with members who could make it their full-time job.

Catch up fast: The council last year raised the annual salary for members to $31,075, up from a paltry $11,400, with the increase going into effect next year.

  • Councilors also will get $75 per committee meeting and $150 per full council meeting, plus bonuses for leadership positions.
  • The new compensation remains low relative to the Marion County median household income of $54,000, as well as council salaries in other cities, but comes with benefits.

Why it matters: The higher pay could attract more strong candidates who otherwise wouldn't have the time or resources to devote full-time hours to a job that hasn't kept up with fast-food restaurants on compensation.

Driving the news: Democrat Andy Nielsen defeated David Ray in a redrawn eastside district that includes Irvington, becoming one of seven newcomers to emerge from primary night with solid chances to win in the November general election.

State of play: Nielsen said he is "ready to make that my full-time job" if he wins in November, an indication that the nature of City-County Council seats could be evolving.

Of note: Council seats are classified as part time, but unlike the part-time Indiana General Assembly, Indianapolis councilors meet year round and earn tens of thousands of dollars less than state lawmakers do.

What he's saying: Nielsen, a 32-year-old senior policy analyst for the Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute, told Axios his full-time council pledge "was something that I would have tried to do probably for a year or a period of time to really be all in," but he's not sure it would have been sustainable without the pay increase.

  • "Luckily, I didn't have to think about it that way," he said.

The bottom line: Running for City-County Council is now a more viable option for prospective candidates who want public service to be their vocation.


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