The 50 highest paid government employees in the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County

The 50 highest paid government employees in the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County
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How does Charlotte strike the balance between retaining talent in the government center and saving taxpayer money for residents’ greatest needs?

  • That was the question Charlotte City Council members had to contemplate last November, as they were asked to approve a proposed 14% raise for the city manager. It passed 9-3. One opponent — council member LaWana Mayfield — called the move “tone deaf.”
  • Charlotte city manager Marcus Jones now has an annual salary of nearly $435,000. That’s more than the president of the United States.

Meanwhile, the minimum wage for city and county employees is $20 an hour.

  • The Charlotte mayor makes around $41,000 and city council members make nearly $34,000, not including expense allowances, according to a city spokesperson.
  • County commissioners are paid $32,666 and the chair makes $40,835, plus allowances. Commissioner Pat Cotham — who declined an across-the-board raise increase — takes home $30,964, the county budget shows.

For a closer, transparent look at staffers’ pay, we’ve compiled a list of the highest-paid government employees for Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte.

  • Of note: Some employees are serving in interim capacities (such as Brent Cagle acting as the temporary CEO of CATS).
  • We only included base salaries, not benefits or bonuses.

Search the database of city employee salaries here. You can find county salaries here.

[Flashback: The 20 highest-paid people at the City of Charlotte (2015)]

1) Marcus Jones, city manager

Marcus Jones. Photo: City of Charlotte

Salary: $434,550

Job description: The CEO of the city. He is in charge of a $3.2-billion budget and oversees all the departments, including public transit and safety.

2) Dena Diorio, county manager

Dena Diorio

Dena Diorio. Photo: Mecklenburg County

Salary: $379,478

Job description: The county’s top boss. Diorio supervises a budget of $2.2 billion. She also made a spot on our list of power player in 2022.

3) Thomas Owens, county chief forensic pathologist

Salary: $283,921

Job description: Directs the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office and works with pathologists and investigators on homicide cases and autopsies.

  • “I’m not trying to prosecute anyone, and I’m not trying to get anyone off on charges. My job is to present the evidence as neutrally as possible,” Owens told Charlotte Magazine in 2020. “Does it fit with the multiple stories? … The body doesn’t lie. People do.”

4) Now hiring: CEO of Charlotte Area Transit System

Salary: TBD

John Lewis was the second highest-paid city employee, making $282,177.45 annually. He resigned in November as the bus system struggled. His successor will likely make a similar amount.

Job description: Head honcho of the local rail and bus systems and long-term transit plans, such as the Silver Line light rail.

5) Patrick Baker, city attorney

Salary: $281,588

Job description: The resident policy and legal adviser. Baker is the man council turns to when on the brink of a dicey decision. He also provides in-house legal counsel to the police, airport, CATS and others.

6) Tyrone Wade, county attorney

Salary: $279,004

Job description: Like Baker, Wade gives legal advice to the commissioners.

7) Brent Cagle, assistant city manager

Salary: $277,463

Job description: The city has a few assistant managers. Cagle is the one in charge of aviation, finance, general services, human resources, and strategy and budget departments. He previously served as the city’s aviation director and is serving as the interim CEO of CATS since Lewis left in the fall.

8) Leslie Johnson, deputy county manager

Salary: $276,247

Job description: Like the city, the county has a few assistants to the manager. Johnson responsibilities include environmental leadership, enhancing parks and recreation, and small business relief grants.

9) Haley Gentry, Charlotte Douglas International Airport CEO

Salary: $274,312

Job description: Gentry worked her way up as an intern in the ’90s to the CEO of the airport in 2021. She guides a 700-plus member staff, $187-million budget, a 1.8 million-square-foot terminal and more than 100,000 daily passengers.

10) Tracy Dodson, assistant city manager and economic development director

Tracy Dodson. Photo: City of Charlotte

Salary: $274,105

Job description: Dodson is credited with “game-changing economic development wins,” like Honeywell’s headquarters relocation to Charlotte, as well as LendingTree, AvidXchange and Lowe’s expansions here. She was also an Axios Local power player in 2022.

[Go deeper: 10 of Charlotte’s most powerful people in 2022]

11 & 12)

Derrick Ramos, deputy county manager and chief of staff

Salary: $266,700

Job description: Works with the commissioners and three county departments: Asset and Facility Management, Criminal Justice Services, and the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Anthony Trotman, deputy county manager

Salary: $266,700

Job description: Oversees the health and human services agency.

13) Bonnie Coyle, county medical director

Salary: $260,194

Job description: The county’s leading medical professional.

14) Jonathan Privette, county forensic pathologist

Salary: $255,667

Job description: Works on cases in the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office.

15 & 16)

Reenie Askew, assistant city manager and chief information officer

Salary: $255,000

Job description: Helps shape the city’s technology vision, which includes bridging the digital divide.

Liz Babson, assistant city manager

Salary: $255,000

Job description: Works on Vision Zero, the Strategic Mobility Plan and other transit plans.

17) Michael Bryant, deputy county manager

Salary: $250,200

Job description: Supervises the Financial Services Department, the Office of the Tax Collector, the County Assessor’s Office, Information Technology and Human Resources.

18) Shawn Heath, city Housing and Neighborhood Services Department director

Salary: $250,000

Job description: Runs a department focused on community engagement, enforcing code ordinances and the CharMec​k 311 customer contact center.

19) Johnny Jennings, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department chief

Johnny Jennings

Johnny Jennings. Photo: City of Charlotte

Salary: $248,358

Job description: The top law enforcement officer at CMPD. He rose the ranks throughout his 30-plus years at the department.

20) Marcellus Turner, CEO of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO/Chief Librarian Marcellus "MT" Turner. Photo: courtesy Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Marcellus “MT” Turner. Photo: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Salary: $237,930

Job description: Leads the library branches. He was named one of Charlotte Magazine’s 2022 Charlotteans of the Year for what he’s accomplished at the library, from launching a mobile unit to eliminating overdue book fines.

21) James Lozano, county forensic pathologist

Salary: $235,571

Job description: Another pathologist in the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office.

22) Jack Christine, airport chief infrastructure and development officer

Salary: $232,827

Job description: Responsible for airport operations, facility maintenance, and planning and development, including multi-billion capital investments under Destination CLT.

23) Angela Charles, Charlotte Water director

Salary: $231,977

Job description: Directs the public water and wastewater utilities.

24) David Boyd, county chief financial officer

Salary: $228,228

Job description: Leads the county’s finance team.

25) Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi, county Land Use & Environmental Services Agency director

Salary: $227,232

Job description: Accountable for air quality, code enforcement, solid waste, storm water services and other areas.

26) Garry McFadden, sheriff

Garry McFadden Child-friendly visitation room at Mecklenburg County Jail

Garry McFadden. Photo: Axios archives

Salary: $225,202

Job description: Elected to run the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

  • Fun fact: He’s the star of a crime TV series, “I Am Homicide.”

27) Keith Gregg, county chief information officer of the Information Technology Department

Salary: $222,860

Job description: Protects and secures county technology, among other goals.

28) Mike Hill, airport chief financial officer

Salary: $221,909

Job description: Manages financial, administration and information technology activities.

29) Ken Joyner, county assessor

Salary: $221,319

Job description: Lists, appraises and assesses properties in Mecklenburg County.

  • Joyner’s been particularly busy over the last several months as his office completes the momentous task of revaluing every parcel in the county.

30) John Eller, county Department of Social Services director

Salary: $220,500

Job description: Leads social services employees as they ensure federally and state mandated services, such as child and adult welfare and Medicaid, are offered in Mecklenburg County.

31) Ted Kaplan, airport chief business and innovation officer

Salary: $218,377

32) Reginald Johnson, Charlotte Fire Department chief

Salary: $217,818

33) Victoria Johnson, special assistant to the city manager

Salary: $216,398

34) Jerome Woodard, airport chief operating officer

Salary: $215,000

35) Teresa Smith, city chief financial officer

Salary: $213,711

36) Phil Reiger, city general services director

Salary: $213,066

37) Mark Hahn, county director of asset and facility management

Salary: $211,985

38) Raynard Washington, county public health director

Salary: $210,000

39) W. Lee Jones, director of county Park and Recreation

Salary: $209,128

40) Willie Ratchford, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations executive director

Salary: $208,424

41) Allen Smith, CATS chief operating officer

Salary: $206,813.7

42) James Yeager Sr., deputy county attorney

Salary: $201,598.77

43) Ryan Bergman, city strategy and budget director

Salary: $198,896

44) Hani Aboufoul, county dentist

Salary: $198,750

45) Sheila Simpson, city human resources director

Salary: $197,589

46) Michael Davis, head of Stormwater Services with the city

Salary: $197,540

47) Crystal Combs, technology services officer with the city

Salary: $196,690

48) LaShaun Carter, county Equity and Inclusion Director

Salary: $195,300

49) Debbie Smith, Charlotte Department of Transportation director

Salary: $194,500

50) Alyson Craig, city deputy planning director

Salary: $194,480

  • She is currently serving as the city’s interim planning director.
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