New governors generally hire new transportation secretaries. So Gene Conti doesnt have much reason to expect that Gov. Bev Perdues successor will ask him to continue running the state Department of Transportation.
And if Conti were to receive that invitation after the November election from an incoming Gov. Pat McCrory or Gov. Walter Dalton, he doesnt know whether he would want to stay.
Conti say the job just doesnt pay all that well.
Conti and seven other non-elected agency heads receive the same salary, as set by the legislature in this years state budget: $121,807. Thats about $18,000 less than the governors pay.
Its not chicken feed. But if you want to hire the best person to manage an agency with a $4 billion budget, Conti says, you ought to think about paying more.
I think state government in particular has a challenge in terms of their compensation levels, compared to what people have earned in the private sector and in this industry, particularly, Conti said Thursday in a meeting with The News & Observers editorial board.
Conti, 66, has moved in and out of state and federal government during his career. Before Perdue tapped him for DOT in early 2009, he was vice president of a private engineering consulting firm.
Im not trying to be a hero, but I took a substantial pay cut to do this job, Conti said. I think most people who would be up to the job probably would be facing that same situation. So I think the state needs to look at how do we make it easier, in terms of financial compensation, to have people make that public service contribution.
Down in the Lone Star state, they do it differently. The Texas DOT is about the same size as North Carolinas: Each has about 12,000 employees and responsibility for almost 80,000 miles of state-maintained roads.
Last year the Texas legislature decided that big pay raises were in order at TxDOT. The agencys new executive director is paid $292,500 thats $100,000 more than his predecessor and his top deputies make around $250,000, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Some of us marvel at what Texas recently did, Conti said. That has changed the whole character of the kinds of people they can attract to those jobs.
Conti oversees 22 men and women with salaries higher than his own. Four DOT officials are paid more than $150,000 apiece, including David Joyner, the Turnpike Authority director, and Tom Bradshaw, newly named state logistics director and state ports director. Thats a lot more than Bradshaw made during his own stint as state DOT secretary from 1977 to 1981, before he went into banking.
Conti served North Carolinas DOT a decade ago as an assistant secretary, and when he left the job in 2003 he was making about $126,000 a year more than he is paid now as the DOT boss.
No wonder he likes the way they do things in Texas.
Get ready to see more of Dalton
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton will be taking the big stage at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week.
His campaign has confirmed that the Democratic candidate for governor will speak at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, the last day of the convention.
Dalton will also speak at the Labor Day celebration CarolinaFest, and talk to North Carolina delegates at their breakfast Wednesday.
The week after that, his TV ad campaign will debut. The campaign is buying $2.6 million in commercial time starting Sept. 11, according to media buyers.
His GOP rival started about a month earlier with a $6.3 million buy giving him a major advantage in reaching voters ahead of the November election. With McCrory on TV, Democrats were facing pressure to counter.
Daltons buy ends that speculation. So far it is much smaller than his rivals but may increase in the future. He so far is not reaching saturation levels the point at which the audience fully absorbs a campaigns message in his ad buy, even in the final weeks of the campaign.
The ads will run through the Nov. 6 election.
Perdue at Lillians List fundraiser
Lillians List hosted Democratic women candidates Thursday evening for a fundraiser featuring Gov. Bev Perdue.
About 250 people were expected to attend the Chapel Hill event for candidates who support the groups abortion rights agenda. Democratic state lawmaker Alice Bordsen, who is retiring, will be honored and the event will feature two legislative candidates, Valerie Foushee and Deb McManus.
The group plans to distribute $44,000 in political contributions this election as it supports 26 candidates.
Staff writers Bruce Siceloff and John Frank
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