March 22, 2023

The Nerve

Where Government Gets Exposed

A Look at S.C.’s Top 10 Agency Heads by Salary

The NerveHeading up a state agency isn’t necessarily a ticket to riches in South Carolina. Of the top 20 paid state employees, just two lead state government entities: Lonnie Carter, chief executive of Santee Cooper, and Robert L. Borden, chief investment officer of the S.C. Retirement Systems Investment Commission.

In fact, the top-paid state employee is Stephanie Kirbach, the clinical research coordinator for alzheimer’s research and clinical programs at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Kirbach earns $450,000, according to information found on the S.C. Salary Database. That’s more than four times what Gov. Mark Sanford brings home.

Still, agency heads don’t do too poorly come payday.

The following is a listing of South Carolina’s top 10 agency heads by salary:

1. Name: Lonnie Carter

Title: President and CEO

Agency: Santee Cooper

State Salary: $404,756

Lonnie Carter is president and CEO of Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned public utility. In this role, he is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the largest power provider in the state. According to its website, Santee Cooper supplies electricity to “more than 163,000 retail customers in Berkeley, Georgetown, and Horry counties, as well as to 31 large industrial facilities, the cities of Bamberg and Georgetown, and the Charleston Air Force Base.” It also provides power to be distributed among the state’s 20 electric cooperatives to more than 685,000 customers in all 46 counties. Carter reports to an 11-member board of directors.

2. Name: Robert L. Borden

Title: Chief Investment Officer

Agency: S.C. Retirement Systems Investment Commission

State Salary: $353,500

Robert Borden is the chief investment officer for South Carolina’s multibillion-dollar State Retirement System, a division of the S.C. Budget and Control Board. According to his official biography, “Mr. Borden has oversight for the complete restructuring of the investment program for the South Carolina Retirement Systems’ $27 billion pension trust fund.” Borden reports to a six-member commission.

3. Name: Harris Pastides

Title: President

Agency: University of South Carolina

State Salary: $265,000

Harris Pasties is president of the University of South Carolina system, which includes USC-Columbia, the state’s largest institution of higher learning with more than 25,000 students. In addition to his direct oversight of the Columbia campus, Pasties is also responsible for seven USC satellite campuses that enroll an additional 13,000 students combined. According to Pastides’ official biography, he has “launched the most comprehensive strategic planning initiative in the university’s history. The effort is expected to result in transformational goals that will steer a course for the university’s long-term future.” In addition to his state salary, Pastides receives handsome compensation from the university’s foundation. He reports to a 22-member board of trustees.

4. Name: William T. Mahoney

Title: President and CEO

Agency: S.C. Research Authority

State Salary: $237,100

Bill Mahoney serves as president and chief executive of the S.C. Research Authority, a public-private “applied research” firm that works closely with the state’s major universities. The Research Authority manages federal research projects and collaborates with industry and universities to promote high-tech development. Mahoney, who reports to a 24-member board of trustees, saw his salary jump nearly 13 percent between 2008 and 2009, to $237,100 from $210,000.

5. Name: Raymond S. Greenberg

Title: President

Agency: Medical University of South Carolina

State Salary: $232,064

Dr. Raymond Greenberg is president of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, one of two public medical schools in South Carolina. According to his official biography, Greenberg has “placed a strong emphasis on statewide outreach and collaboration. The university has partnered with Clemson University in a bioengineering alliance, and with the University of South Carolina in an integration of the state’s two pharmacy schools. Most significantly, the state’s three research universities and four largest teaching hospitals have joined in the formation of Health Sciences South Carolina – an unprecedented collaboration to improve health, advance medical research, and stimulate economic development.” In addition to his state salary, Greenberg is also compensated through the MUSC Medical Center. He reports to a 14-member board of trustees.

6. Name: James Barker

Title: President

Agency: Clemson University

State Salary: $227,656

James Barker is president of Clemson University, a public institution with approximately 17,000 students. According to his official biography, Barker “came into office with a vision and a mandate from the board to lead Clemson into the top ranks of American public universities – an institution that attracts outstanding faculty and students, provides an unmatched educational experience, and helps drive innovation and economic development for the state of South Carolina.” In addition to his state salary, Barker receives additional compensation from the university’s foundation. He reports to a 13-member board of trustees.

7. Name: Paula Harper Bethea

Title: Executive Director

Agency: S.C. Education Lottery

State Salary: $226,829

Paula Harper Bethea was named executive director of the S.C. Education Lottery in September, after spending two months as interim director. A planned national search to fill the top position after the resignation of the Lottery’s first director, Ernie Passailaigue, never took place. Bethea is responsible for administering the day-to-day operations of the Lottery, a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association. The Lottery provides dozens of games of chance, many to low-income consumers. The lottery generated more than $1 billion in sales during fiscal year 2008-09, of which more than $260 million was transferred to the state for educational programs. Bethea reports to a nine-member Lottery Commission.

8. Name: James Newsome

Title: President and CEO

Agency: S.C. State Ports Authority

State Salary: $225,000

Jim Newsome oversees the day-to-day management of the S.C. State Ports Authority, which runs the Port of Charleston and the Port of Georgetown. He replaced Bernard Groseclose Jr. last year. Once the nation’s second-busiest port, Charleston’s competitive position has declined considerably in recent years. According to the SPA website, the Ports Authority “will develop, operate and maintain competitive, cost-efficient, highly-productive cargo handling facilities in a fiscally responsible manner.” The Ports Authority CEO reports to an 11-member board of directors.

9. Name: Frank Fusco

Title: Executive Director

Agency: S.C. Budget and Control Board

State Salary: $173,380

Frank Fusco is responsible for the day-to-day management of the S.C. Budget and Control Board, the quasi-executive, quasi-legislative agency that manages the vast majority of the administrative functions of state government in South Carolina. According to its official website, the board “plays a key role in the general management of state government. This institution is unique to South Carolina and provides a broad array of services to other parts of the public sector as well as administrative and regulatory functions.” Fusco reports to the five-member board, which is comprised of the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general, House Ways and Means chairman and Senate Finance chairman.

10. Name: George Benson

Title: President

Agency: College of Charleston

State Salary: $166,202

George Benson is president of the College of Charleston, a 10,000-student liberal arts institution located in downtown Charleston. According to his official biography, Benson’s administration has focused on “strengthening partnerships with individuals, groups and businesses to increase academic collaboration, community engagement, entrepreneurial activities and financial contributions for scholarships, programs, and faculty. (Benson) has launched several initiatives designed to improve the college’s current operations and future development.” In addition to his state salary, Benson is compensated by the school’s foundation. He reports to a 17-member board of trustees.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or

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The Nerve