Sheriff Clay Whittle is one step closer to becoming Columbia County’s highest-paid elected official after action Tuesday to approve a pay raise.
The county commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to increase the base pay the sheriff receives. Final approval is expected in two weeks at the commission’s next meeting.
County Administrator Scott Johnson said he discovered an inequity in the compensation for elected officials when he and County Attorney Doug Batchelor were preparing annual letters sent to contracted county employees and elected officials.
Those letters inform the recipients about how much they’ll be paid for the year after any longevity increases are added.
“We realized the compensation for the sheriff was lower that some other elected officials,” particularly the tax commissioner, clerk of court and probate judge, Johnson said, because those officials had received a state-legislated raise several years ago that did not include the sheriff’s position.
“It was a disservice to him that it was not caught before,” commission Chairman Ron Cross said.
If the ordinance receives final approval, Whittle’s pay will rise to $135,760 a year, which is $163 a year more than Tax Commissioner Kay Allen.
Drawing laughter from the audience, Cross said he wanted to make it clear that “this has no similarity to what is going on in Richmond County,” where newly elected Sheriff Richard Roundtree has asked the Augusta Commission for a raise. The commission approved his request Tuesday.
Whittle didn’t ask for the raise, but instead was told about the inequity when it was discovered, Johnson said.
The commission on Tuesday also approved paying nearly $200,000 to purchase a handful of parcels for rights of way along Washington Road in advance of the planned widening of the highway. Sales tax funding will be used to widen it from Gibbs Road to William Few Parkway, an estimated $40 million project.