Horry County Council approved a three-year contract for administrator Steve Gosnell Tuesday night.
Gosnell’s salary will be just under $205,000 and he will receive a vehicle allowance of $8,400, said council chairman Johnny Gardner. After three years, Gosnell’s contract has three one-year renewal options.
"It means everything," Gardner said of reaching an agreement with the new administrator. "We are now in the business of governing. We've got all the side distractions past us."
The vote was nearly unanimous. Only councilman Tyler Servant opposed the deal.
Gosnell’s new salary is less than the nearly $218,000 he made as interim administrator. The interim salary was the same as Gosnell’s predecessor, Chris Eldridge, who stepped down in April.
Eldridge's departure ended a tumultuous four months for Horry County Government. On Dec. 20, Eldridge asked the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to investigate extortion allegations involving Gardner. The administrator requested the investigation on the same day Gardner was sworn in.
SLED investigated the chairman, but Gardner was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in February.
Eldridge’s employment was discussed at special meetings twice this year. In January, a move to suspend him with pay failed. In March, council deadlocked 6-6 on a vote to fire him, thus temporarily preserving his job.
If the council had opted to fire Eldridge, his contract stipulated that he would still have been paid an equivalent of six months of his salary.
Gosnell did not attend Tuesday's meeting because he is on vacation.
Council members said Gosnell’s new compensation falls midway between what he would have been paid if he had remained in his previous job — assistant administrator over the infrastructure and regulation division — and the amount of the interim salary plus the 4.4 percent raise council members approved for all county workers in June.
The contract discussions began after council members voted 11-1 on July 9 to enter negotiations with Gosnell, who has worked for the county for 26 years. County officials cited Gosnell’s history of service and support from county employees in their decision to offer him the job.
A six-member council committee was appointed to negotiate with Gosnell and they met behind closed doors with him on July 22. After the meeting, Gosnell and Gardner continued to hammer out the remaining details.
Gosnell’s new salary is comparable to what other top government officials are paid in Horry County, according to information provided by local governments. Although there are differences in insurance and retirement packages, the rates for salaries and transportation compensation are similar.
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen’s salary is just under $194,000 and he receives a car allowance of $10,200 per year. In Conway, City Administrator Adam Emrick is paid a salary of nearly $131,000 and he drives a city-owned SUV. North Myrtle Beach City Manager Mike Mahaney’s salary is just below $211,000 and he receives a car allowance of $9,540 per year.
Statewide, a 2017 survey of counties with populations over 200,000 found that salary scales for county administrators, managers and supervisors — the three types of county executives in South Carolina — ranged from $102,340 to $275,127. The highest administrator salary level was in Greenville County, according to the S.C. Association of Counties survey.