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Real people, real pay
By KRIS HUNDLEY
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 10, 2000
There are 1.3-million working people in the Tampa bay area. These are a few of their stories . . . and salaries.
They include everyone from a Gen-Xer who lives on a shoestring to an executive whose information technology company has made him a millionaire many times over.
With unemployment bumping along at all-time lows, many jobs go begging. In Tarpon Springs, sponge boats sit dockside because crews can't be found. In Clearwater, a high-tech recruiter said major companies have put projects on hold because they can't find the talent to do the work.
Indeed, the big surprise of the current economic boom is that record unemployment has not resulted in higher pay. But that may be changing: Among two dozen people interviewed for this story, four reported recent raises above cost-of-living increases. The biggest percentage boost, 10 percent, went to a unionized certified nursing assistant. Also seeing a healthy increase are Florida teachers, who get an 8 percent pay raise next year.
Anthony, 35, runs the College Hill Community Center, a year-round job that heats up in summer with as many as 200 kids.
She's been with the city for 16 years, working up to the director's job, which pays $17.71 an hour plus overtime. Though her summer schedule stretches from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Anthony said she enjoys it.
"It's not stressful," she said. "But it does have a tendency to be hectic."
Hofacker has been a union worker with GTE for 12 years, first as a service installer, for the past two years as a repairman. Last year he earned record pay, thanks mostly to average work weeks of 70 to 80 hours. His base pay is $19.22 an hour.
"Right now it's pretty hectic, with a lot of lightning hits blowing out phones and computers," said Hofacker, who does everything from climbing poles to digging up cables. "But once you learn your job and they have faith in you and know you're not out screwing off, it's like being self-employed."
Though Hofacker's father worked for GTE, he doesn't expect his kids to keep up the tradition. "I wouldn't want my girl to do this, and my boy wants to make a career of baseball," Hofacker, 34, said. "I want him to get his dream."
Crawford has been on the job for 10 months, supervising everything from corporate team-building to teen snorkeling trips to toddler arts and crafts. Her favorite activity: handing toilet plungers, balloons and cardboard to teams of executives and challenging them to make and race boats. "You really see the personalities come out fast," she said.
In addition to her base salary, Crawford, 35, gets monthly bonuses based on customer comment cards and gratuities from corporate groups. An annual bonus is tied to the overall success of the company.
When Johnson signed a $56-million contract with the Bucs this spring, he became the highest-paid professional athlete in the Tampa Bay area. Over the life of the eight-year contract, Johnson, 27, is estimated to receive $7-million a year. The former New York Jets All Pro receiver also is expected to earn up to $1-million a year in endorsements.
Burch, 33, deals with kids in crisis when their mothers come to the CASA shelter to escape domestic violence. She handles counseling, assessment and day care for an average of a dozen kids at any one time, and the turnover is constant. Stays in the shelter range from one day to six weeks.
Burch's qualifications: a high school degree, one semester of college and a survivor of domestic abuse.
"I stayed at this shelter," said Burch, who previously supervised a residential program for the mentally and physically disabled where her salary was $2,000 less. "I feel like I'm helping the community more directly here."
Brady has been a librarian since 1972, long before the Internet turned the information business on its head.
"The Internet has so much, people need a navigator and that's what a librarian can be," Brady, 63, said. "You can get lots of information on the Internet, but lots of it is not very reliable. Finding verifiable sources, that's the challenge."
Harrell, 28, has put together a hodgepodge of jobs that works for him: about 20 hours a week selling CDs at DaddyKool.com on St. Petersburg's Central Avenue, tending bar one night each weekend next door at the State Theater and writing for Focus, a local music scene magazine. His ultimate goal is parlaying clips from Focus into a job as columnist or satirist with a bigger magazine.
"I make enough to live on," said Harrell, who has a degree from Hillsborough Community College but no desire to go back to school. "The only thing I gripe about is that with all this part-time work, I have no benefits."
Mickey Ellis, 46, has been a full-time, year-round pool guy for 25 years. "It was a lot more fun when I was younger," he said. "Now I've got too many responsibilities."
As the person in charge of the newly renovated Sulphur Springs complex, Ellis supervises a crew of nine guards and 10 swim instructors. He started college at the University of South Florida but got hooked on lifeguarding and dropped out. Now he earns $17.71 an hour and is counting the years to retirement.
"I've got about seven years to finish my pension," he said. "Seven long years."
Les Ennis works a 48-hour week in two, 24-hour shifts at one of Tampa's busiest stations, covering Ybor City and Temple Terrace along with downtown districts. He supplements his firefighter pay of $17.91 an hour with occasional part-time work as a welder and teacher at the local fire training academy.
Ennis, 38, is a second-generation firefighter, starting at age 16 in his hometown in Canada. He moved to the States in 1977 and joined the Tampa department eight years later.
"It's a way of life," he said during a phone interview before dashing off on another call. "It was either join the fire department or race cars."
Moultrie has been a CNA in local nursing homes for 30 years, bathing, dressing and feeding people who often have no one else. Since a raise in November, her pay is $9.19 an hour for a 371/2-hour week. In 1970, her starting pay was $2.35 an hour.
Moultrie, 51, is responsible for eight to 10 residents on the day shift. "Now money's getting tight and we're often short-staffed," said Moultrie, who considers her position more than just a job. "I'm doing something for someone who needs me, rather than someone who can afford me."
Don't ask Vallee, who's been working in shipyards for nearly 20 years, how hot it gets welding steel plates in a ship's hold on a summer afternoon. "I don't dare take a temperature gauge down there," he said. "I'd never go back."
Vallee, 38, started out as a shipyard laborer, "sucking water out of holes and sweeping tanks, pretty much the bottom of the totem pole." Now he supervises a crew of 25 on one of the round-the-clock shifts at International Ship.
He offers a straightforward job description: "You cut frames and weld them back together," he said. "And if you don't do your job right, the boat sinks."
Like all but one of the other local bridgetenders, Foss, 74, is a refugee from retirement. "I retired for four months and have been working ever since," he said.
Running the drawbridges on the eight Department of Transportation bridges in Pinellas County pays $7.25 an hour; a typical schedule is 32 hours in four, eight-hour shifts. Like most of his colleagues, Foss' pay is supplemented by social security and pension checks from GTE, where he was employed for 30 years.
Foss, who works the day shift, passes the time when he's not punching controls on the computerized drawbridge by watching TV and reading. Sometimes it's more entertaining to watch the road.
"It amazes me that some people don't even acknowledge the red lights and actually run the gates," he said. "We probably lose a gate once a year."
Willie L. Freeman
Freeman started hauling trash in St. Petersburg when he was 19, dodging clotheslines and dogs before dawn with heavy barrels on his back.
"There were many days I didn't enjoy it," Freeman, 56, said. "I never could have made it this long with all that lifting."
Now Freeman slips into the air-conditioned cab of his automated truck and listens to gospel music from Sunday service at the church he attends. He has mastered moving the robotic arm that picks up, dumps and releases trash barrels while watching for traffic and parked cars. His only complaint: Sitting too long wears you out.
Gallagher has been running Pasco County government, with 1,700 employees and a budget of $430-million, since March 1982, when the county budget was $60-million and the population considerably less.
"I started out in this job making $40,000," said Gallagher, who before that had been making $10,000 less as New Port Richey's city manager. "I remember looking at my first paycheck and realizing that I'd moved from managing a city of 3.5 square miles to a county of 750 square miles for a raise of about $50 a week."
Now Gallagher, 53, is one of the best-paid county administrators in the Tampa Bay region, though he downplays the numbers. "Other county managers get lots more benies. I just told them to give me the cash," said Gallagher, whose compensation includes a $200 monthly car allowance. "The money all goes out. I think I had more money in my pocket when I was teaching high school 30 years ago."
Father Robert Schneider
All pastors in the Diocese of St. Petersburg receive $1,345 a month in salary and auto expense, but there are other earthly benefits to the job: They get free housing and meals in a home owned by the parish.
Another bonus: so-called "stole fees" (named after the priest's vestments) for performing funerals and weddings. Schneider, who has run the Holy Family parish since 1996, said such donations average $4,000 to $5,000 a year.
Williams was narrowly elected to the bench in January 1999 after 15 years of solo practice. While the pay is better than private practice, where she grossed more but took home less, a judge's calendar leaves little flexibility.
"When I was in solo practice, I took work home every night, but there were days when I took off," Williams, 45, said. "Now it's hard to even make a doctor's appointment."
The monotony of battery, prostitution, exposure, DUI and probation violation cases is broken up by the creativity of the defendants, said Williams, who keeps a memo on each jury trial. "I can't believe they could cook some of these things up," she said. "They're stranger than fiction."
Morrison, 56, has a master's degree in special education and 10 years of teaching experience. And she was ready to picket if a big pay increase didn't come through this year.
As it is, she'll get an 8 percent raise, the biggest in her career. That makes it easier for her to enjoy her job teaching a classroom of about a dozen emotionally handicapped fourth- and fifth-graders.
Morrison picks up teaching jobs earning as much as $2,700 during alternate summers; this year she's taking a class, paid for by the county, to earn a license as an applied behavior analyst. "I honestly don't think it will bring me any increase in pay or a promotion," she said. "But it will help me service the kids better."
Dr. John C. Ruckdeschel
Ruckdeschel, 54, holds two full-time positions. As head of the Moffitt center, he earned $405,852 in 1998. He also received $117,738 as an oncology professor at USF's College of Medicine.
Ruckdeschel came to Moffitt in 1991 and has aggressively expanded its basic research programs. In 1998, Moffitt Institute reported net assets of $58.4-million.
Nichols, 42, started writing tickets in downtown Tampa 18 years ago, back when her title was "meter maid." On good days she spends her eight-hour shift driving a department car through city parking lots and outlying streets. On bad days she pounds the sidewalk, watching tempers rise with the heat as she hands out tickets.
Her favorite violator: a guy who had artfully daubed mud on an expired registration sticker. "I gave the guy an "A' for effort but I still gave him a ticket," she said.
Nichols, a single mother who put two daughters through college, intends to retire in two years and try another, hopefully more lucrative career. "Both my girls make more money than me," she said with a bit of pride and wonder. "This job was originally intended to be a second income but I don't think they've increased the pay to go along with the times."
Satish K. Sanan
Sanan, founder and chief executive of IMRglobal, a Clearwater computer consulting company, did well enough in 1999 to make him the highest-paid head of a public company in Florida. But everything is relative: In 1998, Sanan's compensation was $54-million.
Sanan's compensation during both years was boosted by profits from the sale of options. In 1999, his salary and bonus was a mere $1.3-million. Then he pulled in another $17.5-million from sale of stock.
Depending on how IMRglobal's stock price fares during the coming year, Sanan could be in for another year of record pay: At the end of 1999, he held exercisable options for nearly 6-million shares.
Posivach came to Tarpon Springs in January 1999 from an assistant city manager's job in Hopewell, Va. The move up the career ladder, after about 25 years in local government, was not necessarily more lucrative, but it put Posivach at the top of her field.
"I think I'm probably behind where I was pay-wise in Virginia, where it was a little larger city with a much larger budget," she said. "But I never would have had the experience I'm getting here. Now I've done just about everything in local government."
Jerry L. Maxwell
As manager of the local water wholesaler, Maxwell, 58, is the man with his hand on the faucet for more than 2-million people in Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. And when there's a record drought that demands water restrictions, those customers can get angry.
"I can understand if you've invested in expensive landscaping, it can be very difficult," said Maxwell, whose yard is devoid of grass."My wife and I are avid gardeners, but I even catch the condensation for an old window air-conditioner for watering plants."
The rule of thumb with church finances is that it takes at least 300 members to support a full-time pastor. Wells' church does it with only 91. "They're all my assistants," said Wells, who came to Lakewood United Church of Christ in 1991 after positions with three larger congregations.
Wells' salary is considered a housing allowance, which makes it tax-free as long as she can prove the total goes for housing costs. Wells also gets an expense account for books, travel and gas, as well as five weeks of vacation a year.
Wells, who has an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and a master's of theology from Union Theological Seminary, said she can make it on pastor's pay thanks to her husband, a minister on disability. "His income is the primary income in our household," she said.
On a typical workday, Straub, 23, will check on the health of the camel-nosed rays, prepare food for the mullets and ladyfish and clean filtration systems. But at $7.79 an hour, she's paid less than many telemarketers in the Tampa Bay area.
"When I was studying, I was told I'd never make a living at it," said Straub, a native of France who has a degree in aquaculture. "But I'm really happy with my job. There are always unusual things coming up, and I learn every day."
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