Originally created 12/14/03

Aiken manager earns praise



AIKEN - City Manager Roger LeDuc has created a solid reputation with his level-headed and steady leadership in Aiken, and it's not going unnoticed - at home or elsewhere.

Mr. LeDuc gets glowing reviews annually and his salary has grown from $75,000 in 1998 to about $105,000 this summer after the Aiken City Council approved across-the-board raises of 1 percent plus $500 this year for all employees.

The city council offered him praise and an additional pay increase Monday during his annual review in an incentive to keep him in Aiken. Council members never got the chance to specify an amount - Mr. LeDuc quickly turned down the increase, saying it would be unfair for him to get a bigger pay bump than other employees during a lean year.

The city manager has received a number of offers to work elsewhere, including a manager's job in Florida he thought twice about taking, he said, only half joking.

Council members describe Mr. LeDuc as a shrewd negotiator and adept problem solver. He's quick with answers and takes time to meet with residents regularly.

"The way he solves problems and day-to-day issues, he seems to always be able to take a bad situation and make something positive happen," Councilman Don Sprawls said.

Mr. LeDuc's stock has gone up with his experience level. In his first three years at the helm, he led Aiken to Municipal Cups, annual awards that recognize government ingenuity across South Carolina. In 2000, he was named one of the top 10 public works leaders in the country by the American Public Works Association.

The award also recognized work he did as Aiken's public works director, a position he held for 12 years before taking over as top dog.

"He's one of the top managers in the state," said Howard Duval, the executive director of the South Carolina Municipal Association. "Roger is just a continuation of excellent managers the city of Aiken has benefited from."

Mr. LeDuc was preceded by Steve Thompson, who took over after Aiken's best known manager, Roland Windham, retired in 1991 after more than 20 years. Mr. Windham is credited by many with creating a progressive government in Aiken, a tradition Mr. Duval says Mr. LeDuc has maintained.

Mr. Thompson left Aiken for a similar position in Greenville after seven years.

Mr. LeDuc said his career path will look more like Mr. Windham's than Mr. Thompson's.

"I love the city of Aiken," Mr. LeDuc said. "The people here have treated me very well. We've got a great council, and we get things done."

He squelched any rumors and said he plans to retire in Aiken, a commitment city council members say they're glad to accept.

"He is a leader," Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said. "He's one of the better city leaders probably in the state."

Mr. Cavanaugh said the council already plans to survey other cities in March to give Mr. LeDuc a merit increase out of next year's budget.

Based on population, Mr. LeDuc's salary appears competitive. Mount Pleasant, for example, has about 50,000 people and pays its manager $95,000. Columbia, meanwhile, has about 116,000 people and pays its manager $140,000.

SALARY NUMBERS

Top 10 manager salaries in South Carolina:

CITY/SALARY/POPULATION

Columbia/$140,000/116,278

Greenville/$135,000/56,002

Rock Hill/$128,003/49,765

Hilton Head Island/$127,762/33,862

Myrtle Beach/$123,600/22,759

Spartanburg/$120,000/39,673

Florence/$118,712/30,248

Aiken/$105,019/25,337

Beaufort/$100,943/12,950

Sumter/$99,110/39,643

Source: South Carolina Municipal Association

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.