Cooper DOT secretary makes 40 percent more than Republican predecessor

While most salaries remain similar to McCrory predecessors, select posts see significant pay increases

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Governor Roy Cooper laughs with former Governor Jim Hunt as they look at a photo of themselves in the late 1990's during Kidonomics

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration released the salaries of eight cabinet secretaries this week in response to a request from the North State Journal.

At an attempted confirmation hearing for one of Gov. Roy Cooper’s cabinet appointments Wednesday lawmakers criticized the governor for not releasing the salaries of recently sworn-in cabinet members.

“There is no question these nominees will wield a lot of power, control multi-billion dollar budgets and make decisions that affect millions of North Carolinians, but as of today, Gov. Cooper hasn’t even said how much the taxpayers are paying his nominees,” said co-chair of the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee Sen.Wesley Meredith (R-Fayetteville).

Meredith’s categorization of the great responsibilities cabinet appointments undertake when tapped for the job may lead him to be more understanding of the large jumps in pay for some Cooper appointments.

The information shows the governor’s pick for Secretary of the N.C. Department of Transportation will make 40 percent more than his predecessors in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.

James H. Trogdon III will earn $195,352 annually in the N.C. DOT’s top post, earning $50,000 more than the governor himself. Nick Tennyson, the former transportation secretary in the McCrory administration, earned $138,040 annually.

Trogdon is a registered professional engineer with more than 30 years of experience in transportation. He is a veteran of the N.C. Department of Transportation, where he worked in the highway division and later as NCDOT’s chief operating officer, and most recently served as national transportation director at SAS Institute. Trogdon is also a major general with more than three decades of military service.

Cooper Budget Director Charlie Perusse also received a $50,000 pay increase, to $195,352, from what McCrory predecessor Drew Heath was paid.

Governor Pat McCrory’s administration was heavily criticized in 2013 for raising secretary salaries an average of approximately $9,500.

The Associated Press also reported the salaries of McCrory’s staff three weeks after he took office leading to further criticism of the McCrory administration for salaries of young staffers selected for senior positions.

Under Governor Beverly Perdue, state law set agency head salaries at just under $122,000 annually. The legislature changed the law to allow the governor to set each state department head’s salary the summer before McCrory took office.

The salaries of the remaining seven secretaries are identical to their predecessors in the previous administration and include: Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen at $142,100; Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland, Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks and Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi Hamilton at $138,040; and Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall, Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders and Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan at $130,935.North Carolina state law requires state agencies to make certain employee personnel information available for inspection by the public, including name, title, age and current salary.

Cooper’s cabinet, while sworn into office and performing assigned duties, have not yet been formally submitted to the General Assembly. The governor is fighting the legislature in court over its authority to hold confirmation hearings for cabinet appointments.