When was the last time you heard of a public official not only volunteering, but insisting that his salary be more than cut in half? When have you ever heard of it?
It was as rare in the 1950’s as it is now. That’s why when Waynesboro, Pa.’s assistant manager and treasurer did it in 1958, it was reported in newspapers around the country. It probably also made a lot of public officials hope that the people they served didn’t expect the same thing from them.
“I feel you’re paying me too much, it’s not fair to me nor to the public,” A. Stover Fitz told the Waynesboro Council on Jan. 20, 1958, as reported in The (Chambersburg) Public Opinion.
It was a frank admission from a long-time borough employee. Fitz’s salary at the time was $4,000 a year, which is roughly $31,200 in today’s dollars. To further put it in context, the average income for a man in 1958 was $3,700 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
So Fitz’s salary was only 8 percent above the national average, but to reach that amount, he was filling two roles for the borough and collecting both of the salaries for those positions. He collected the borough taxes in his role as borough treasurer and as the assistant borough manager, he provided assistance and advice to the borough manager.
“Make my salary $1,800 a year as treasurer and forget about the assistant borough manager title,” Fitz told the council.
He was willing to take a 55 percent pay cut and still perform the same duties. It wasn’t that he was being magnanimous; Fitz simply believed that public service should be more a service than a job. Fitz had worked for the borough in various capacities for 49 years. He had begun his career with Waynesboro as a part-time secretary in 1909. He rose through the ranks to eventually become borough manager before slowing down a bit to become the borough’s assistant manager and treasurer.
At 81 years old, Fitz wanted to enjoy his remaining years without having to feel the need to work all hours of the day to justify receiving two salaries.
“I want to feel free to work a half day when I feel like it, take a half day off for illness and to come in late when it’s snowing,” Fitz said.
Council President Harold J. Rowe praised Fitz for his integrity and said that the he believed that even when Fitz was working half a day, the work he did was still worth $4,000 a year. Fitz was insistent, though. He pushed his position and eventually convinced the borough council. The councilmen voted to cut Fitz’s salary “with reluctance.”