Santee Cooper raises pay of top 5 executives

Santee-Cooper

MONCKS CORNER -- Santee Cooper's board of directors on Monday finalized raises for the state-owned utility's top five executives, who received no salary increases in 2009.

After signing off on 3 percent raises for top management in April, the board further adjusted two of the five's salaries higher after an extensive closed-door session Monday.

Elaine Peterson, executive vice president of financial affairs, received the biggest boost.

Her 13 percent raise will allow her to earn $303,667 a year, an increase of about $35,650 a year. Peterson has been employed at Santee Cooper since 1977.

Also receiving a significant boost was R.M. Singletary, executive vice president of corporate services. His annual salary will rise 9 percent to $261,162, a raise of about $22,000.

He also has been with the company 33 years and was promoted last month from senior vice president of corporate services.

President and chief executive Lonnie Carter's salary rises $12,143, to $416,899 a year.

He joined the utility as an entry-level engineer in 1982 and became president in 2004.

Others receiving raises include Bill McCall, executive vice president and chief operating officer, whose salary will go up $10,985 to $377,151, and Jim Brogdon, executive vice president and general counsel, by $7,268 to $249,534.

McCall started working for Santee Cooper in 1971. Brogdon is a former circuit court judge who was promoted in April from senior vice president. He joined Santee Cooper in 2005 after leaving the bench.

Altogether, the raises total nearly $88,000 at the power and water utility, which sprang out of the Great Depression when the lakes were built.

O.L. Thompson, chairman, said the raises were necessary to retain quality workers and reward good work.

"They are well-merited," he said of the salary increases. "We have to stay competitive in the marketplace. I have no qualms about it."

He said salaries for Peterson and Singletary were well below the industry average and needed to be brought in line.

"The market has changed a lot since the last time they had an adjustment," Thompson said.

Carter said the utility industry continues to raise salaries and that Santee Cooper did not.

"It's easy for people to complain about executive compensation," Carter said. "I've had two job offers that would have paid me twice as much, but I turned both of them down because I realized we had a lot of work to do here."

The utility's other employees received an average 2.09 percent raise in March, based on performance, according to Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn. They also received an average 2.89 percent raise in 2009, and 4.07 percent average raises in 2008.

Last year, Santee Cooper increased rates for its residential customers by 7.6 percent in electric rates. Prices also rose for commercial and industrial customers.

Reach Warren Wise at 937-5524 or wwise@postandcourier.com.