College president Brewster given 24 percent salary increase

Grays Harbor College President Dr. Ed Brewster’s new three-year contract includes a salary increase of $36,000 per year after the college’s Board of Trustees approved a 24 percent pay increase at its July meeting.

Brewster’s contracted salary is now $185,000 per year, compared to his previous annual pay of $149,000. The raise was retroactive for the entire month of July. The board also approved its budget at the meeting.

Brewster, who has worked in his position for almost a decade, said the raise was a “retention issue,” one of the ways college administrative positions can receive pay raises under state policy. In the last nine years, Brewster’s salary has only seen a cost of living increase enacted by the Legislature in 2007 that all of the college’s employees received, according to Board of Trustees President Art Blauvelt.

Brewster said he has been contacted by other colleges about other positions, with salaries higher than his own — though he said he preferred not to disclose where or what positions they were.

“This action by the Board is in the interest of retaining Dr. Brewster in his position as president of Grays Harbor College, since he has been actively recruited by other colleges for presidential positions over the past two years,” Blauvelt said in an email to The Daily World. He also pointed out that the 24 percent increase would equate to a 2.6 percent annual adjustment over the past nine years. “We are also aware that if Dr. Brewster left Grays Harbor College, we would need to pay his replacement at or above the state average salary for community and technical college presidents.”

Blauvelt pointed out that, in 2011, Brewster’s salary was the seventh lowest of 38 comparable positions. “His salary was $25,000 below the average for the colleges in 2010-2011,” Blauvelt added.

Blauvelt said there were a number of other reasons the board could list as to why Brewster deserves the raise, but that the law is clear in that it must be for “retention only.”

“Trustees cannot adjust president’s salaries for the reasons that would clearly warrant Dr. Brewster’s raise, i.e., performance,” he said. “For example, GHC being rated No. 1 in the state, effective leadership, success during very difficult economic times, community involvement, statewide recognition for his work on community college boards and issues, and many other reasons.”

The board had been having discussions in regard to raising his pay nearer to the state average for several years, according to Brewster. The current state average salary for presidents or chancellors of community and technical colleges is $178,638, according to a March 2013 survey provided by the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

“I was surprised they decided to move ahead with it,” Brewster said, he plans to continue working in the GHC position that he “loves” for the foreseeable future.

“It was certainly all I needed,” he said of the pay raise, and his decision to stay.

While Brewster had not received a raise in some time, 10 percent pay increases to other lead administrators at the college last year was cause for some questions from the college’s union representatives. Many were upset such increases came at the same time as a wage freeze for faculty and a 3 percent pay cut instituted for support personnel. That 3 percent has been restored across the board for “classified” staff, which includes office assistant positions, maintenance and custodial positions — a restoration which Brewster fought for, according to Blauvelt. Brewster also point out that some classified staff also received actual raises.

As to faculty, Brewster said that once the contract is negotiated locally, it dictates salaries. But, Blauvelt said, Brewster has fought for adjustments in some faculty member’s pay.

Brewster said there were no other substantial raises, but that there were some “adjustments” made at different levels throughout the college, such as replacing positions recently vacated with differently named higher-paid positions. For example, the financial aid director position is now an assistant dean position.

Union representatives planned to hold a meeting Thursday afternoon regarding the salary increases, and several representatives of the faculty did not wish to speak on the subject until after the meeting.