Baker's salary bumped by council

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By Carol A. Clark

Prestige comes with the job title but esteem is earned and Los Alamos County Administrator Max Baker has earned the esteem of the Los Alamos County Council, Councilor Ken Milder said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Milder, who served on county council in the 1980s, said he’s worked with a lot of county administrators over the years and ranks Baker amongst the best of them.

“What’s important is the level of confidence any county administrator can earn and Max has certainly earned our confidence,” he said.

Council Chair Jim Hall described the difference from when he worked for the county to how it operates now as the difference between night and day.

“One thing I know for sure is that Max Baker is absolutely committed to improving the lives of the people of Los Alamos County,” Hall said. “He has a demonstrated history of thoughtful judgment and consistent hard work...we are fortunate to have him and I want to say publicly, thank you Max.”

Councilor Jim West told Baker he has the highest regard and respect for him. “This county has no idea how blessed it is to have the highly dedicated and competent administrator and staff that it has,” said West, who has served on regional boards for years and has seen how other municipalities operate.

Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson explained that the county administrator has an “extraordinary number of items on his plate, hundreds and hundreds of them,” most of which council never hears about because they are handled so well... “Max has done a great job and is entitled to a salary increase commensurate with that,” Gibson said.

On May 13 and May 20, council met in closed session to discuss Baker’s performance during the last 12 months as well as develop goals for the coming year.

Council voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting to increase Baker’s salary by 4 percent to $166,385.

“We hope this raise indicates that we recognize all the good work that you do Max...and how we appreciate your ability to bring out the very best in your staff,” Councilor Fran Berting said.

Councilors Nona Bowman and Mike Wheeler were out of town Tuesday.

Baker thanked the councilors and praised them and county staff saying, “The success of the county is not me but all of the employees and particularly the council who allow us the freedom to do our work.” Baker also thanked the community for its support of the county. “This is an exciting time for the county - we have a lot on our plate...we really appreciate the support the community has given us,” he said.

Baker moved to Los Alamos from Joplin, Mo., with his wife Kathryn and their three children when he became county finance director in Jan. 1992. He was promoted to administrative services director in June 1999, and deputy county administrator in March 2001. Baker held the position of interim county administrator three times between 2000 and January 2005 when he finally agreed to take the job permanently.

“I’ve been happy with the support from council that has allowed us to accomplish many things for the community,” he said.

Baker was born in southeastern Idaho and he and Kathryn have lived in the Bay Area of California and in Farmington. “The good school system was part of what drew us here along with the opportunity for a challenging job,” he said, adding that all three Baker children have graduated from Los Alamos High School.