Meet the money-makers: A look at salary trends for Mid-Columbia public officials

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldAugust 31, 2013 

College presidents, CEOs for Energy Northwest and Kennewick General Hospital, and the heads of local utility districts are among the Mid-Columbia's top paid officials this year.

More than 70 local public officials are paid a base salary of $100,000 or higher, according to a recent Herald survey.

That's relatively unchanged from last year. Some elected officials and public employees working with about 30 public agencies and local governments saw their base salaries grow in the last year. Quite a few saw their pay remain static.

More than half of the public officials making more than $100,000 are government employees not elected by voters. Top-paid local elected officials include superior and district court judges and county prosecutors.

Base salaries don't reflect bonuses, retirement, benefits or any other forms of pay.

At the top of the wage scale this year and last year is Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest's chief executive officer, with a base salary of about $624,000 -- up almost 16 percent from last year.

That salary is within the range of what the nuclear industry pays CEOs, said Sid Morrison, chairman of the Energy Northwest executive board. It also reflects the success of the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant under Reddemann's leadership.

Reddemann, who is in his third year as CEO, turned the plant from being one of the poorest performers in the nation to one headed for the top 25 percent, Morrison said. The board wants to keep Reddemann and continue seeing results that benefit all ratepayers served by public power in the Northwest, he said.

The second highest-paid Tri-City public official is the new Washington State University Tri-Cities chancellor, H. Keith Moo-Young. His current base salary is $300,000, up $75,000 from what his predecessor was paid in 2011-12.

WSU spokeswoman Melissa O'Neil Perdue said his salary for the complex, time-demanding job is set by the president of the university and is the same as what the WSU chancellors in Vancouver and Spokane earn. Each of the three chancellors were hired in the last year.

Next on the list is KGH CEO Glen Marshall, who will be paid a base salary of $280,000 this year for leading the public hospital district. The district includes the Auburn Street hospital, a second hospital under construction in Southridge, and walk-in, urgent care and regular doctor clinics, with more than 85 health care providers.

Fourth on the list is Rich Cummins, president of Columbia Basin College, who will be paid a base salary of $195,000. His pay has remained flat based on budget decisions made by the state Legislature.

Three Department of Energy managers at Hanford are the fifth- through seventh-highest paid public officials of those the Herald reviewed. Kevin Smith, the Office of River Protection manager, Matt McCormick, the Richland Operations Office manager, and Roger Snyder, Pacific Northwest Site Office Manager, will make between $119,600 and $179,700 this year.

The top-paid general manager for a local public utility district is Chad Bartram, who became Benton PUD's leader at the beginning of this year. At a base salary of $178,000 a year, he is the eighth-highest paid public official of those included in the Herald's review.

Bartram, who has worked for the PUD for more than a decade, earns about $4,000 less than his predecessor, but about $6,000 more than Ed Brost, who has been Franklin PUD's general manager since 2008.

"(Bartram is) fairly compensated," said Jeff Hall, president of the Benton PUD board. "He's not overly compensated as far as we are concerned and he is doing a great job."

The Benton PUD board used surveys reflecting what other public utilities pay and customer and employee counts to help determine Bartram's pay, Hall said. He is under contract for three years at the same pay.

The top-paid Tri-City port director is Jim Toomey, who has served as the Port of Pasco's executive director for almost 22 years.

Toomey, who intends to retire at the end of the year, will be paid a base salary of $165,000 this year, which places him 12th in the list of paid local officials.

Toomey always has gone above and beyond on the job, said Jim Klindworth, Port of Pasco commissioner, who also was on the commission that hired Toomey.

"We felt that Jim earned every penny," he said.

The newest Tri-City school district superintendent, Rick Schulte, also has the largest base superintendent salary, earning $155,000 this year.

"I think we got a very experienced, very capable person for less money than I expected," said Rick Jansons, Richland School Board president.

Pasco's Superintendent, Saundra Hill, has a base salary of $143,000 this year, while Kennewick's Superintendent Dave Bond will make a base salary of about $116,800.

And the longest-serving Tri-City city manager also has the highest base pay. Gary Crutchfield, who has been Pasco's city manager for more than 28 years, will make about $153,600 this year.

Richland City Manager Cindy Johnson has a base salary only $200 lower, and Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley makes about $2,000 less than Crutchfield.

The top-paid local county official is Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller, whose base pay is almost $149,000 this year. By law, county prosecutor salaries are based on the Superior Court judge salary.

The judges' salaries were about $149,000 this year until Sept. 1, when they rose to about $152,000.

The state pays for half of that salary, recognizing that the position serves both the state and the county, said Tom McBride, executive secretary for the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

However, counties are given some flexibility, as long as they continue to put at least as much as they paid in 2008 toward the prosecutor's salary and eventually aim to be even with the Superior Court judges' salaries.

That's why Shawn Sant, Franklin County's prosecutor, earns less than Miller, at about $129,000. The state pays about $74,500 of his salary, while the county pays about $54,500 this year -- an increase of $7,000 from what the county paid his predecessor in 2007.

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