AUGUSTA, Ga. – Columbia County is approaching 80% of the population of Augusta-Richmond while its county government is less than half the size.
The Augusta Chronicle obtained and analyzed salary records from both counties and found top officials took home comparable amounts, while Columbia County had far fewer rank-and-file workers.
Including each county’s public safety personnel, Augusta-Richmond has approximately 2,540 full-time workers while Columbia County has 1,235. The consolidated Augusta government has an estimated population of 200,000 while fast-growing Columbia is estimated at 160,000.
Differences between the two jurisdictions could help explain the staffing numbers. For instance, Augusta Regional Airport employs 73 plus 12 security officers from the Richmond County Marshal’s Office.
Augusta-Richmond has divisions – such as its fully-functioning landfill, or the Augusta Canal Authority – that Columbia County does not have, while Columbia’s cities of Grovetown and Harlem employ additional service workers.
Augusta’s highest-paid employee is Administrator Odie Donald II, at $240,000, while Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson garners $203,800. Their two deputy administrators make $146,292 and $150,858, respectively.
Columbia County tends to pay its elected officials more, although some have served much longer than their Richmond counterparts. Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle makes $187,667 while Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree earns $137,088.
The sheriff’s offices are the largest agencies in both counties.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office employs 331, including 28 911 dispatchers and 117 who work at the county jail. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office employs 670, including 219 who work at the Webster Detention Center. Sixty work at Augusta 911.
Columbia County Clerk of Court Cynthia Mason makes $177,920 while Richmond Clerk of Court Hattie Sullivan makes $126,352. Columbia Probate Judge Alice Padgett makes $163,376 to Richmond Probate Judge Harry James’ $148,354.
Columbia County Fire-Rescue employs 186 while Augusta Fire Department has 335 personnel. The average salary of a Columbia County firefighter is $51,490 while the average for an Augusta firefighter is $42,469.
The lowest-paid full-time Columbia County workers are recycling center attendants, who make $25,459, while the lowest paid in Augusta-Richmond are a handful of landscaping and kennel workers, who make $23,320.