Group gives hefty raises to South Carolina agency leaders

A group that considers pay raises for the leaders of state agencies has agreed to give tens of thousands of dollars in pay increases to five directors.

There was only one vote Thursday against the raises by the Agency Head Salary Commission with most members agreeing the extra pay is needed to keep talented leaders with increased competition from private industries, The State newspaper reported.

“Unfortunately we have been behind the curve on salaries in South Carolina,” said House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, a Republican from Rock Hill who acknowledged the increases would draw public scrutiny. “It’s difficult to hire and retain talent.”

Office of Regulatory Staff Executive Director Nanette Edwards received a 48% raise to $265,000; Department of Administration Executive Director Marcia Adams: was given a 27% raise to $284,679; Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling’s pay was bumped 25% to $250,000; State Fiscal Accountability Authority Executive Director Grant Gillespie had his pay increased 22% to $245,000; and Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall got a 19% raise to $298,000 a little over a year after getting a 32% raise.

“I use Secretary Hall as a prime example of a person who understands an agency from top to bottom,” Simrill said.

The lone vote against the raises came from Senate President Harvey Peeler. The Republican from Gaffney suggested the raises could be spread out over three years as he pointed out the amount of the increase for some leaders was more than the yearly pay for some state employees.

“It’s not the personalities,” Peeler said. “It’s not the people, we have great people, they’ve earned their pay, but it’s just the numbers. It’s hard for me to justify this time.”

The Agency Head Salary Commission is four House members, four senators, and three people appointed by the governor.

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