Horry County Council and County Administrator Chris Eldridge signed a four-year contract with $10,000 annual pay increases through 2018, when he will be paid $200,000.
The contract makes Eldridge the highest paid county employee. He manages a $373 million annual budget in a county where more than 2,100 employees either report to him or his department heads.
Eldridge’s current contract was signed in 2012. This year he makes $157,624.48, and will make $170,000 a year beginning July 1, the start of the next budget year. The salary will increase by $10,000 annually until 2018. The contract, signed and released Wednesday, also includes a $9,600 annual vehicle stipend that increases by 4 percent each year until it peaks at $10,798 in July 2018.
Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said after Tuesday’s closed session at the county’s bi-monthly meeting that the contract offers a six-month severance package if either party terminates the contract.
“I can tell you through his evaluation period, Mr. Eldridge was hired prior to me being here,” Lazarus said. “I’ve been working with him through two budgets now and he has been doing what council had hired him to do. He’s not here to win a popularity contest by any means. He’s here to make tough decisions and run a business, and I think he’s done that.”
The vote passed 10-1 with newcomer Councilman Tyler Servant being the lone “no” vote. Aside from a few abstentions in his first four months in office, Servant has not voted against a mostly agreed upon measure until now. He issued a statement after his vote Tuesday.
“My vote against the administrator’s contract is not a reflection of my opinion of his competency or performance,” Servant said in the statement. “In fact I think he does a good job and I am supportive. I just prefer compensation packages that incentivize waste identification/elimination via a bonus structure. I offered up that suggestion and it was not accepted. I intend to offer this concept as a separate proposal later this year.”
Eldridge has improved relationships with the county’s municipalities through a regularly scheduled meeting among the administrators every other month, which includes the school district and Grand Strand Water and Sewer.
He was key in not renewing the contract of Mike LaPier, former director of airports for Horry County, after an agreement the county had with Canadian airline WestJet cost the county about $583,000 in rebates in 2013.
Also, after the September resignation of Paul Whitten, former assistant administrator for public safety, Eldridge absorbed Whitten’s responsibilities, effectively saving the county about $140,000 through attrition. Since Eldridge has taken over, the county has reorganized the public safety division and has seen overtime savings in public safety through more close monitoring.
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.