MCCULLOUGH: The big-league paycheck

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

I’m glad I don’t have a job in which my salary is public knowledge.

Not that the figure would blow anyone away. It's just the sort of information I've always thought should remain private, mainly because one of two things happens when a person's salary is disclosed: People who make less are jealous and wonder what makes you so special, and people who make more wonder what's wrong with you that you don't make as much as they do.

Those reactions come mainly among co-workers whose salaries are in the same neighborhood to begin with. When it comes to public figures, the reaction is more often outrage or disbelief.

Case in point: Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks had his contract renewed last week. It calls for a base salary of $348,259 per year. I was stunned, I think because the figure was so much higher than I expected, and I already expected six figures.

But then I thought about it for a minute. The man is the "CEO" of the county's largest employer. He is the head of the largest school system in the state. And not only is it the largest, but it's also successful, with test scores regularly high, and the prestigious Broad Prize being among the many feathers in the school system's cap.

So why shouldn't a person who does a job like that make a large salary? In fact, I would say a person in charge of the education of so many children deserves at least to make the league minimum of a Major League baseball player. Unfortunately, Wilbanks falls a little short of that number ($414,000).

But if you really want to see a salary disparity, think about the county chairman. That position pays roughly $50,000, less than a QuikTrip manager, if you believe the help-wanted posters in the store windows. That's to run a major metropolitan county with more people than the state of Wyoming.

Of course, unlike Wilbanks, the person in the chairman's chair is elected. And one would hope that candidates run out of a sense of public duty and a need to serve, not just for the salary, but still, a monetary reward in line with the responsibilities of the position only seems fair, both to the elected person and for the future of the county they're steering. And if you prove not to be up to the job, there's a definitive performance review every four years.

Now take that to the extreme and think about this: Gwinnett County Chairman, $50,000. Gwinnett schools superintendent, $348,000. President of the United States? $400,000.

The most powerful man in the world doesn't make as much as Jarrod Dyson, a backup outfielder for the Kansas City Royals who has hit .208 and one home run in two seasons. That's only one more homer than Barack Obama has. (Feel free to make up your own metaphor/joke here.) And Dyson doesn't have to go to national security briefings or fight with Congress.

Of course, given the political climate in this country, I doubt you'll find many people who want to give the president -- or any politicians -- a raise. And the big-time ones seem to do fine on their own anyway, especially with the river of corporate money that backs them.

But down here in reality-land it would seem the position of county chairman is due for a salary correction. Either that, or maybe Mrs. Nash and her successors should learn to hit a curveball.

It would certainly pay better.

Email Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.