If you were to peruse a list of the country’s richest politicians, you might come away with the idea that there’s big money in politics. There might be if you’re in the right position. But often, people make their fortunes before heading to the White House or Congress, rather than while they’re there. Others start amassing money after they’ve served, charging big speaking fees and writing books.
But most politicians serve and don’t become rich, simply earning the salary the job pays and slinking back to their lives. That’s because the vast majority of political posts aren’t in Washington, D.C. — they’re at the local level. The people holding these jobs work for city, county, or state governments. They do pull a salary — and often a fair one — but they’re not getting rich.
What about mayors? Surely they’re making a good living, right? According to an analysis by American City Business Journals, a select few are earning quite a bit.
By looking at mayoral salaries in 60 U.S. cities, the publication was able to determine where America’s highest-paid mayors are working. There was quite the disparity, too. “ACBJ’s research includes 41 mayors in office at the start of the year whose budgeted salary topped the $100,000 threshold, including seven who were slated to earn more than $200,000 per year. It also includes eight big-city mayors whose annual budgeted salary fell below $40,000 per year,” writes Craig Douglas, American City Business Journals’ director of editorial research and analysis.
As for the top 15? These are the cities that pay their mayors the most.
15. Baltimore, Maryland/Memphis, Tennessee (tie)
- The mayors of both Baltimore and Memphis earn $171,000 per year.
Yes, we’re kicking our list off with two cities: Baltimore and Memphis. This is because each city pays its mayor — Catherine Pugh in Baltimore and Jim Strickland in Memphis — a salary of $171,000 per year. That seems like a lot, but as we’ll see some city officials earn much more than that in larger cities. Memphis, in this case, is unique in that only a couple of other landlocked cities make an appearance on our list.
Next: Our next city’s mayoral salary is a “mile high.”
14. Denver, Colorado
- The mayor of Denver, Michael B. Hancock, was elected in 2011.
As the state capital of Colorado, Denver is one of those landlocked cities. Colorado is a state that has been “purpling” over time, growing more Democratic. Denver’s mayor, Michael B. Hancock, is one of those Democrats and was elected in 2011. The 47-year-old Hancock earns a salary of $172,000 per year for putting up with how bad the Avalanche have become in recent years.
Next: Now we head east to Ohio for the final landlocked city.
13. Columbus, Ohio
- Andrew Ginther was the youngest City Council president in the city’s history at 35.
We land in Ohio, now, at another state capital. Columbus is one of three major cities in Ohio, but its mayor, Andrew Ginther, earns more than his counterparts in Cleveland and Cincinnati. All told, Ginther earns a salary of $173,000 per year, making the 41-year-old one of the country’s highest-paid city officials. And yes, he’s quite successful for his age — so keep an eye out for this budding Democrat.
Next: Down south, now, to the swamp
12. Jacksonville, Florida
- The mayor of Jacksonville earns $174,000.
Florida is another state filled with major cities. Miami, Tampa, and Orlando are a few (we’ll see one of these further down the list), but in terms of mayoral salaries Jacksonville’s top official is out-earning nearly all of them. The 46-year-old Lenny Curry holds the job since his election in 2015. Curry earns an annual salary of $174,000.
Next: A big earner in the Pacific Northwest
11. Seattle, Washington
- Ed Murray, Seattle’s current mayor, is not running for re-election.
There has been a lot of drama surrounding this year’s mayoral race in Seattle, with the incumbent, Ed Murray, deciding not to run for re-election. That means the job is up for grabs, and with it the annual salary of $175,000. As for the next mayor of Seattle, the election will be held in November, and the final two candidates are former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and urban planner Cary Moon.
Next: From one coast to another
10. Boston, Massachusetts
- The first mayor of Boston was sworn in in 1822.
The capital of Massachusetts, Boston is an old city (old for America anyway) and has had a lot of mayors. The current mayor, Martin Walsh, is the 54th. The 50-year-old Democrat is a Boston native and even attended Boston College — so he’s a Boston boy through and through. In his job as mayor, which he’s held since 2014, he earns a salary of $175,000.
Next: Being the mayor of the next city on our list is no picnic.
9. Detroit, Michigan
- Mike Duggan, Detroit’s mayor, is the 75th person to hold the job.
Ah, to be mayor of the Motor City. Given Detroit’s struggles over the past few decades, it’s not an easy job. But it does pay reasonably well, with the current salary at $177,000. The city’s current mayor, Mike Duggan, is the recipient of that salary as he was elected in 2013. He is Detroit’s 75th mayor and was born in the city, as well. In addition to being a local, he also went to school down the road at the University of Michigan.
Next: What’s it like to be the mayor in the same city as Disney World?
8. Orlando, Florida
- The current mayor of Orlando is serving his fourth term.
We mentioned another Florida city would pop up at some point on this list, and here we are. The mayor of Orlando earns more than the mayors of Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville, with a salary of $178,000. It’s been enough to keep Buddy Dyer, the city’s current mayor, around for a long time. Now serving his fourth term, Dyer has been in office since 2003.
Next: If you’re the mayor of Washington, D.C., are you simultaneously the district’s governor?
7. Washington, D.C.
- The city government of Washington, D.C., also has state-level responsibilities.
The job of mayor in Washington, D.C., is incredibly unique. The District of Columbia isn’t a state, so it doesn’t have a state government or a governor. That means when it comes to local officials, the mayor is right at the top of the heap. Washington’s mayoral salary is set at $200,000. Its current mayor, Muriel Bowser, was elected in 2015.
Next: Our next mayor came straight from the White House to the Windy City.
6. Chicago, Illinois
- Before being elected mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
If you’re a political junkie, you’ll recognize the name Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel was elected in 2011, shortly after he left the White House where he had served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Now, as mayor of Chicago, Emanuel earns a salary of $216,210. Emanuel is 57-years-old and might have bigger political ambitions down the road. But he’s had a rough go of it in Chicago over the past couple of years.
Next: The City of Brotherly Love
5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- The mayor of Philadelphia earns $218,000 annually.
Philadelphia is often overlooked in the shadow of New York City to the north and Washington, D.C., to the south, but it’s the country’s fifth-largest city with a population of more than 1.5 million. As such, its mayor has the country’s fifth-largest mayoral salary. Right now, the mayor is James Kenney, who was just elected in 2016. Kenney earns $218,000 per year.
Next: The country’s largest and most populous city
4. New York City, New York
- The current mayor of New York is Bill de Blasio.
No mayor is under a larger microscope than the one who serves New York City. Though it’s the nation’s largest city, New York City’s mayor has the fourth-largest mayoral salary in the country at $225,000. The city’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, has held office since being elected in 2014. It’s been a relatively short tenure for de Blasio. But he, like Emanuel, is often rumored to be eyeing bigger prizes.
Next: We head to the Lone Star State for No. 3.
3. Houston, Texas
- The city of Houston is the largest (by population) in Texas and the fourth largest in the country.
When you think of the country’s biggest cities, you might not remember to include Houston on the list. With so many other large cities in Texas — Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas to name a few — Houston can get lost in the mix. But it’s the country’s fourth-largest city, and its mayor earns a pretty good living for keeping things under control. Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, earns $235,000.
Next: Our final two cities take us out west to California.
2. Los Angeles, California
- The population of Los Angeles proper is around 4 million. The entire LA region, though, is home to an estimated 19 million people.
Our final two cities are both in California. First up, and in second place overall, is Los Angeles — the country’s second-biggest city overall. LA’s current mayor is Eric Garcetti, a 45-year-old who was elected in 2013 and won re-election for another term. Garcetti’s salary is $238,000, which isn’t too bad at all. Garcetti, like many other mayors on our list, is native to the city he now presides over.
Next: Any guesses for which city took the top spot?
1. San Francisco, California
- Mayor Ed Lee is the city’s first Asian-American mayor.
If you guessed San Francisco, give yourself a pat on the back. San Francisco pays its mayor more than any other city in the country, with the current salary sitting at $289,000, according to the American City Business Journals’ analysis. The city’s current mayor, Ed Lee, was elected in 2011 and is 64 years old.