120 county employees in Delaware top $100K in pay

DOVER — One hundred twenty county employees are set to earn six-figure salaries this year, according to data from the three counties.

Unsurprisingly, most of those individuals work in New Castle County, although just how lopsided the ratio is may raise some eyebrows. For the current fiscal year, which started July 1, six of Kent County’s 290 full-time employees are earning at least $100,000 in base salary. In Sussex County, seven of the approximately 500 full-time workers meet that level.

Naturally, that means the remaining 107 county employees banking 100K (89 percent) work in New Castle, Delaware’s most populous county.

As befitting its status as the home to about 58 percent of the state population, New Castle boasts by far the largest workforce: 1,516 regular full-time employees, making its government personnel rolls about three times longer than Sussex’ and five times longer than Kent’s.

Thus, while it probably won’t come as a shock as to what county the highest-paid individual works in, just a tad further down the list is perhaps a different story.

New Castle’s top earner isn’t County Executive Matt Meyer, who basically serves as a governor writ small. Instead, the title of highest-salaried county employee in Delaware belongs to Chief Administrative Officer Vanessa Phillips, the second-in-command in New Castle.

The CAO helps with the day-to-day functions of county government, assisting the county exec in carrying out his or her vision. In that role, Ms. Phillips is making $160,413 this year.

Current Attorney General Kathy Jennings was Ms. Phillips’ predecessor, holding the office for about a year before resigning to run for elected office. Secretary of State Jeff Bullock held the position in the 2000s, and Gov. John Carney was deputy CAO in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Second in overall salary is Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson, at $159,236.22.

Kent and Sussex do not have county executive positions. Although all three counties have councils (or, in Kent, an equivalent with Levy Court), only New Castle is governed by an individual elected countywide.

That person appoints people to several positions, including chief administrative officer and chief of staff.

In both Kent and Sussex, the county administrator is appointed by council and is the highest-ranking and highest-salaried employee of the county government.

Kent Administrator Mike Petit de Mange, who has held the post since 2007, is set to make about $143,876 this year. He previously spent almost five years as the county’s planning director. His counterpart down south, Mr. Lawson, assumed his position in 2012, coming from the government relations industry in Washington.

While Mr. Petit de Mange would rank second in salary in Sussex, 10 employees of New Castle surpass him.

New Castle’s chief executive’s salary is set in statute at $100,500, with increases every year starting July 1, 2000, to adjust for changes in the cost of living as determined by the U.S. government.

The salary for Kent’s administrator is based off the standard paygrade structure used by the county for all employees, with potential pay raises considered by Levy Court annually as part of the budget process. In Sussex, the administrator’s salary is determined by County Council when he or she is hired, with potential performance or cost-of-living adjustments taking place in budget deliberations.

New Castle boasts the only countywide police force in the state and is the only county with a full-time attorney on staff (as opposed to contractual).

For comparison between the counties, New Castle’s budget totals about $377 million, while Sussex’ comes to $186 million and Kent’s ends up at a comparatively puny $65 million. About 7.1 percent of New Castle employees have six-figure salaries, with Sussex and Kent coming in at 1.4 and 2.1 percent, respectively.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a worker in each county last year was, from north to south, $63,874, $43,841 and $40,498.

Highest-paid county employees
You may know who the state’s highest-paid employees are — Delaware Technical Community College President Mark Brainard takes the top spot, as reported in April — but can you name the top earner in your county? Take a look below. Listed are the employees of Kent and Sussex scheduled to make at least $100,000 in salary this year, as well as the eight New Castle County workers who will surpass $150,000. In total, 120 county employees have six-figure salaries.

Kent County
County Administrator Mike Petit de Mange $143,876
Director of Finance Susan Durham $128,818
Director of Public Safety Colin Faulkner $117,024
Director of Public Works Diana Golt $116,675
Director of Planning Services Sarah Keifer $108,868
Director of Information Technology Kimberly Crouch $108,425

Sussex County
County Administrator Todd Lawson $159,236.22
County Engineer Hans Medlarz $136,361.42
Director of Emergency Medical Services Robert Stuart $125,596.12
Director of Finance/Chief Operating Officer Gina Jennings $118,383.20
Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services Operations Robert Murray $113,166.04
Deputy Finance Director Kathy Roth $103,786.80
Deputy Director of Emergency Medical Services Administration Jeffrey Cox $103,507.04

New Castle County
Chief Administrative Officer Vanessa Phillips $160,413
Chief of Police Vaughn Bond Jr. $158,059
County Executive Matt Meyer $153,357
Chief of Staff Aundrea Almond $150,534
Land Use General Manager Richard Eberhart $150,534
County Attorney Wilson Davis $150,534
Chief Financial Officer David Gregor $150,534
Public Works General Manager Tracy Surles $150,534

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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