Dracut Housing Authority executive director Mary Karabatsos
Dracut Housing Authority executive director Mary Karabatsos

DRACUT -- Mary Karabatsos is getting 16 percent more pay, and is going to stay as the Dracut Housing Authority's executive director through February 2018, according to terms of a contract extension announced by Russell Taylor, chairman of the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners.

Karabatsos' extension and raise was awarded by a unanimous vote of the Housing Authority's five-member board in the fall, and has since been approved by the state. It boosts her annual salary by $10,000, from $78,114 previously, to $88,114. Also, Karabatsos said Wednesday her renegotiated deal allowed for a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment, which brings her total 2014 compensation for the 40-hours-per-week position to $90,640.

The contract also includes five weeks of paid vacation per year, plus three personal days, and up to 15 sick days.

Taylor, who was one of Karabatsos' strongest supporters in 2011 when the Board of Commissioners tried to oust her -- while apparently doing the bidding of now-disgraced former Lowell Housing Authority Executive Director Michael McLaughlin -- said Karabatsos' pay raise and five-year extension was a just reward for her outstanding job performance.

The new deal was largely motivated by Karabatsos' near departure last January to the Medford Housing Authority directorship, admitted Taylor. A year ago, Karabatsos was one of four finalists for the Medford post that paid about $100,000 annually, or $22,000 more than she was earning in Dracut. "

"We almost lost her," Taylor said.

The perfect site-inspection score of 100 that was awarded to the Hanson Glen apartments last month by a HUD-certified contractor became further evidence that Karabatsos is the best executive the Dracut Housing Authority could hope to have, according to Taylor.

In an effort to convince Karabatsos to stay on, and dissuade her from continuing to seek employment elsewhere, the commissioners agreed to negotiate the payraise and expanded the length of contract to five years, Taylor said.

Karabatsos' previous contract was for three years, and would have expired this November.

"She has done a spectacular job. She is a very talented woman in her position," said Taylor.

Also voting for Karabatsos'' higher-paying contract extension was Brian Bond, whose four years of service on the Housing Authority board got off to a controversial start in August 2011 when he voted at his first official DHA meeting as the governor-appointed commissioner not to renew Karabatsos' contract.

"We got off to a rough start, but since then things have gone great. We need to keep her here," said Bond, who stopped by Karabatsos' office at 971 Mammoth Road on Wednesday to discuss with her the next step in the DHA's ambitious plan to build more affordable housing on the Richardson property in Dracut.

Karabatsos said she is pleased with her new contract, and very happy about the prospect of serving as the DHA's director through 2018.

"I honestly love my job. We work very well together out here," Karabatsos said.

As director of the Housing Authority, Karabatsos oversees 221 public-housing units and 68 Section 8, housing choice vouchers units in various locations throughout the town, including on Parker Avenue, Pleasant Street, Phineas Street and Mammoth Road.

Follow John Collins on Twitter and Tout at johncolowellsun.