MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - WMBF Investigates obtained lists of city employees who make more than $50,000 in Conway, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.
Across all three cities, city manager is the highest paid position with salaries higher than $100,000.
Nearly 300 employees make more than $50,000 in Myrtle Beach. The city spends around $19.6 million on these salaries. A majority of the positions listed are for police and fire personnel whose salaries generally range from $50,000 - $65,000.
The top five Myrtle Beach city employees gross $772,000.
Those top five earners are
1. John Pedersen, City Manager - $184, 407
2. Thomas Ellenburg, City Attorney - $150,462
3. Michael Shelton, Chief Financial Officer – $149,258
4. Bruce Boulineau, Assistant City Manager - $146,676
5. Jonathan Simons Jr., Assistant City Manger - $142,225
Special projects manager, chief of police, convention center general manager, fire chief and the chief municipal judge are also top earners within the city. For a look at the top ten positions click here.
Here’s the entire list Myrtle Beach city salaries.
North Myrtle Beach
In North Myrtle Beach, 160 employees receive salaries more than $50,000 with 17 making more than $100,000.
A breakdown of those top salaries show the top earners as:
1. Michael Mahaney, City Manager - $210, 808
2. Kevin Blayton, Director of Public works - $174, 654
3. Randy Wright, Finance Director - $156,910
4. Jay Fernandez, Director of Public Safety - $154, 511
5. John Bullard, Director of Parks and Recreation - $130,355
When asked why the city manager’s salary is so high, North Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Pat Dowling responded, "When it comes to our City Manager, the reality is that all bucks stop with him. He is a highly proactive City Manager who is always out and about in the community working with property owners, businesses and visitors to identify and resolve challenges before they become problems."
Dowling said Mahaney works on weekends and weekdays.
“We see him function up close and personal on a daily basis, so we’re biased and think he is worth every penny City Council pays him,” Dowling said.
More of the highest earning jobs in North Myrtle Beach include the city attorney, public information officer and operation managers.
The entire database of North Myrtle Beach top earners can be found here.
In Conway, 33 employees make more than $50,000. Only City Administrator Adam Emrick makes more than $100,000. His salary is around 6 percent of total Conway pays for all 33 salaries.
The top earners:
1. Adam Emrick, City Administrator - $124,562
2. Victoria Lefler, Deputy City Administrator - $84,982
3. Allison Williams, Finance Director - $80,641
4. Kevin Chestnut, Public Works Director - $75, 957
5. James Friday, Public Utilities Director - $75,957
6. Mary Catherine Hyman, Planning Director - $75,957
7. Clayton Long, Police Chief - $75,957
A visual look into the top earners is shown here.
The context behind the cash
Comparing these positions across the three cities with national averages for the same positions reveal some differences.
Numbers from the National League of Cities reveal city managers across the country are paid more. However, all three of the cities paid the position more than the national average. Looking further at these numbers show positions in NOrth Myrtle Beach pay higher than the other two cities and the national average. However, Myrtle Beach still pays all the comparable positions more than the national average.
In comparison, Conway’s salaries are lower for all positions expect for its city administrator.
Conway Public Information Officer Taylor Newell said while only the fire chief’s salary differs significantly, the city is currently conducting a worker’s compensation study with an outside agency, Evergreen Solutions. She said the company is in the process of looking at salaries of other municipalities that are comparable to Conway in size, location and budget.
Dowling said comparing salaries across cities can be misleading because the duties included in jobs can vary.
He explained North Myrtle Beach’s public works director is also the city engineer and does a double workload. The city’s public works director makes $70,000 more than Myrtle Beach’s and nearly $100,000 more than Conway’s public works director.
Dowling further said North Myrtle Beach’s police and fire personnel are cross-trained so he is unsure how compensation would compare.
Population can also factor into finances of the position.
Among the three cities, Myrtle Beach has the highest population with more than 32,000 in 2017, according to the United States Census Bureau. Conway had 23,000 residents and North Myrtle Beach 16,000.
Dowling further explained the influx of visitors to the city between May and October affects the city’s decision for job salaries.
“A job description that earns more here than in a ‘normal’ city of similar year-round population, may or may not pay more as we find and try to hold on to personnel who can straddle the two realities effectively and, more importantly, willingly,” Dowling said. “No days off during the “season”, always on call, etc.”