If you want to make money working for the state of South Carolina, you might want to climb to the top of an academic field, especially in a highly sought after area of medicine.
Nine of the top 10 highest-paid state employees – excluding college coaches and athletics personnel, and a few other special cases – work for public universities in the Palmetto State. Almost half of them are medical doctors.
But the highest base salary for a state employes belongs to the head of the state-owned utility.
Lonnie Carter, the chief executive and president of Santee Cooper, was the only non-athletics employee with base pay from the state of more than $500,000 on a list of publicly disclosed salaries as of the end of May.
By law, the salary of any state employee making $50,000 or more in base salary is public information.
That list is heavy with athletics personnel – including University of South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp and athletics director Ray Tanner, both of whose base pay exceeded Carter’s
Also, the actual pay of some state employees is underreported. Those state workers – including some coaches – have smaller taxpayer-paid salaries, but also are paid from other sources.
For example, the president of the University of South Carolina, Harris Pastides, has total pay of $916,000 if privately raised money and other forms of compensation are taken into account. But Pastides’ state-paid salary is $325,031.
Of the state’s top earners:
▪ Carter made $525,174 in 2016 as the head of Santee Cooper. The state-owned utility provides power to 2 million South Carolinians, directly serving customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties, and providing power to the state’s 20 electric cooperatives.
Carter’s pay is set by Santee Cooper’s state-appointed board and is based on the pay of other CEOs of similar-sized utilities, both public and private, said utility spokeswoman Mollie Gore. “His responsibility is different from privately held companies because, with no shareholders, he’s focused exclusively on customers.”
But Santee Cooper does face financial challenges.
In partnership with SCANA, Santee Cooper co-owns a pair of troubled nuclear reactors under construction in Fairfield County. Whether those multibillion-dollar reactors will be finished is up in the air after the contractor, Westinghouse, declared bankruptcy.
▪ Martin Morad ranks No. 2 and is the top-paid state employee in the world of S.C. academia. Morad holds an endowed chair in cardiovascular health at USC, where he is paid $405,368.
For that sum, South Carolina and the world could get a “biological pacemaker” made of genetically engineered cells, a project that Morad is working on.
Morad is a leading scientist in the field of cardiac electrophysiology, studying how calcium proteins can control how heart muscle grows and regenerates. His research could lead to new therapies for congestive heart failure, including potentially the world's first tissue-derived human heart pacemaker.
As part of the “SmartState” collaboration, Morad splits his time between USC and the Medical University of South Carolina. Students on both campuses have access to him.
▪ Joan Gabel, No. 3 on the Top 10, is paid $400,400 a year as provost of the University of South Carolina, a position she has held since 2015.
Before joining USC, Gabel was dean of the University of Missouri’s business college. The Atlanta native received her doctorate from the University of Georgia, headed the business schools at Georgia State and Florida State, and edited the American Business Law Journal.
“As provost, Joan Gabel is USC’s chief academic officer and is, ultimately, responsible for ensuring academic excellence is delivered to all of our 32,000 students,” said USC spokesman Jeff Stensland.
Since Gabel took on her role, USC has hired seven new deans and 144 new tenured or tenure-track professors, Stensland added.
▪ Lisa Montgomery, No. 4, is a MUSC employee but not a doctor. Montgomery is the Charleston school’s vice president of finance and management, a job that pays $388,041.
Montgomery’s role combines the jobs of overseeing MUSC’s business operations and chief financial officer, positions that each individually would command a salary in Montgomery’s range, said MUSC’s Heather Woolwine.
Two others at MUSC also appear in the state’s top 10.
Martin Steed, at No. 8, oversees the medical school’s dental surgery department for $368,602 , and No. 10 Matt Wain is chief operating officer of MUSC Health, the university’s medical center. He is paid $363,600.01.
▪ Prakash Nagarkatti, No. 5, is paid $381,918 as the vice president of research at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine, overseeing a $250 million-a-year research enterprise. Since joining USC in 2005, Nagarkatti has secured $78 million in federal funding for autoimmune research. He also directs three research centers funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
Rounding out the top 10 are:
▪ Ed Walton, No. 6, who oversees USC’s non-academic planning and activities as senior VP of administration, making $379,185
▪ Frank Spinale, No. 7, a cell biology and anatomy professor at USC’s medical school, who is paid $371,500 and, like Morad, splits his time between USC and MUSC
▪ Peter Brews, No. 9, who is paid $364,616 a year to head USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.
SC’s highest paid
Who is the highest paid state worker? It’s a tricky question. For instance, some state workers – including university presidents and athletics coaches – get only part of their pay from the state, and often that state pay is dwarfed by their pay from other sources. However, if you exclude those special cases, the state’s highest paid workers tend to work in academia. A look at the Top 10:
▪ Lonnie Carter, chief executive and president of Santee Cooper – $525,174
▪ Martin Morad, professor, USC School of Medicine – $405,368
▪ Joan Gabel, provost, University of South Carolina – $400,400
▪ Lisa Montgomery, vice president of the Medical University of South Carolina – $388,011
▪ Prakash Nagarkatti, vice president for research, USC School of Medicine – $381,918
▪ Edward Walton, senior VP for administration and chief operating officer – USC, $379,185
▪ Francis Spinale, professor of cell biology and anatomy, USC School of Medicine – $371,500
▪ Martin Steed, head of the department of oral surgery – MUSC, $368,602
▪ Peter Brews, dean of the Darla Moore School of Business – USC, $364,616
▪ Matthew Wain, chief operating officer of MUSC Health – $363,600.01