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