A dozen state employees topped the $1 million salary mark in fiscal 2022, led by University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, who earlier this month won a second consecutive national college football title.

According to the state’s Open Georgia salary website, the million dollar club — which had nine members the previous year — included professors, coaches and pension fund investors during fiscal 2022, which ended June 30.

Rank-and-file state employees got $5,000 raises from lawmakers last spring, as did members of the General Assembly. Gov. Brian Kemp is proposing an additional $2,000 raise this year for state and University System of Georgia employees and teachers.

That will be a drop in the bucket for some of the state’s highest-paid staffers.

The public is used to football coaches earning big money — Smart made $7.955 million in fiscal 2022, according to Open Georgia, and former Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins $3.5 million. Smart will earn more than $10 million this year under a contract extension signed last year. Collins was fired in September after a poor start to the 2022 season.

Charles Cary, longtime chief investment officer at the Teachers Retirement System, was paid $1,065,122, up from $1,018,238 the previous year. Cary’s increased earnings came even though the TRS pension program lost $15 billion in fiscal 2022 as the stock market tanked.

According to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, the median salary for a state government employee will be about $47,000 a year if lawmakers approve Kemp’s pay-raise proposal. State officials say the average is almost $64,000 a year with higher-paid University System staffers included.

Most of the others on the $1 million pay list were coaches, although a pair of doctors finished among their ranks. According to Open Georgia, James D. St. Louis, chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at Augusta University, earned $1.615 million, and Richard Lee, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Augusta University, received $1.2 million.

Some others came close: Griffith Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, made $994,828 in fiscal 2022, according to Open Georgia, and Fernando Vale Diaz, neurosurgery chairman at Augusta University, $986,000. Georgia Tech’s Angel Cabrera was the highest-paid college president at $955,000.

Most of the top-paid non-university staffers worked for either the Georgia Ports Authority or the Teachers Retirement System. Traditionally, among non-coaches, the highest pay in the University System goes to doctors working at Augusta University, home of the state’s medical college.

According to Open Georgia, the highest-paid school system employee was Cheryl Watson-Harris, superintendent of DeKalb County schools, who made $639,037. Watson-Harris was fired by the DeKalb board last year and the total compensation last year including the buyout of her contract.

It marked a departure from most recent years, when the highest-paid superintendent was typically longtime Gwinnett County school chief Alvin Wilbanks. The Gwinnett board decided in 2021 to buy out Wilbanks’ contract, but those payments kept him No. 2 among K-12 school staffers.

Kemp was paid $176,250 to run the state in 2022.

Top earners

The top 10 pay recipients in state government, the University System of Georgia and school districts in fiscal 2022, which ended June 30

State government

  • Charles Cary, chief investment officer, Teacher Retirement System, $1,065,122
  • Griffith Lynch, executive director, Georgia Ports Authority, $994,828
  • Thomas Horkan, co-chief investment officer, TRS, $901,966
  • Michael Majure, co-chief investment officer, TRS, $901,966
  • Edward McCarthy, chief operating officer, Ports Authority, $567,502
  • Clifford Pyron, chief commercial officer, Ports Authority, $563,982
  • Clanton Shipp, co-director of equities, TRS, $489,189
  • Matthew Wolfersberger, co-director of equities, TRS, $486,921
  • Russell McMurry, commissioner, Department of Transportation, $455,216
  • Bambang Cahyono, director of alternative investments, TRS, $445,216

University System of Georgia

  • Kirby Smart, head football coach, University of Georgia, $7,955,000
  • Geoff Collins, head football coach, Georgia Tech, $3,492,000*
  • Josh Pastner, head basketball coach, Georgia Tech, $3,177,443
  • Tom Crean, head basketball coach, University of Georgia, $2,537,623*
  • Todd Monken, offensive coordinator, University of Georgia, $1,814,742
  • James St. Louis, chief, pediatric and congenital heart surgery, Augusta University, $1,615,250
  • Richard Lee, section chief and professor, Augusta University, $1,205,000
  • Bryan McClendon, wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator, University of Georgia, $1,134,000
  • Daniel Lanning, defensive coordinator, University of Georgia, $1,073,787*
  • Antonio “Dell” McGee, run game coordinator and running backs coach, University of Georgia, $1,011,254

School systems

  • Cheryl Watson-Harris, superintendent, DeKalb County schools, $639,037*
  • Alvin Wilbanks, superintendent, Gwinnett County schools, $597,667*
  • Curtis Jones, superintendent, Bibb County schools, $444,770*
  • Morcease Beasley, superintendent, Clayton County schools, $443,598*
  • Christopher Ragsdale, superintendent, Cobb County schools, $439,729
  • Michael Looney, superintendent, Fulton County schools, $437,005
  • Calvin Watts, superintendent, Gwinnett County schools, $402,343
  • Brian Hightower, superintendent, Cherokee County schools, $376,901
  • Lisa Herring, superintendent, city of Atlanta schools, $372,945
  • Mark Albertus, superintendent, city of Carrollton schools, $349,925

*No longer in the job

Source: Open Georgia