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At $223,939, Briley Tops Prince William's Payroll

County Says Economic Development Chief Deserves It

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2004; Page PW01

Martin J. Briley, Prince William County's highly praised economic development director, made $223,939 in 2003, $45,000 more than the county executive and $90,000 more than the county's fire and police chiefs, according to county payroll records.

Briley's salary is one of the highest public sector paychecks in the region.


Prince William officials said that the county is lucky to have Briley. They attribute much of the county's job growth and new businesses to Briley's personal negotiating skills.

"He's about the best in the country," said Cleil Fitzwater, the county's director of human resources, who made $114,521 in 2003. "Yes, we pay him a good salary. But look at what he's produced for our county."

Prince William is adding jobs at a high rate for its size, according to the U.S. Labor Department. In 2003, the county announced 1,452 new jobs and two dozen new businesses.

"Many economic development directors are good marketers, but only a few can close deals. Martin Briley is a deal closer," said Sean T. Connaughton (R), chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.

Briley's contract, which expires in March, provides for automatic 10 percent raises each year. This year, Briley will make more than $234,000. In comparison, Gerald Gordon, the president and chief executive of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, made $180,870 in 2003 and $179,597 this year, according to records.

Briley's second-in-command, John Schofield, is the 14th-highest earner in the county, making $120,297 in 2003. That was more than the county's library director, personnel director, sheriff, jail superintendent and other department heads.

With the exception of the Economic Development Department, Prince William government is in the middle of the pack when it comes to government pay in the Washington region, according to pay records obtained from the region's major local governments.

The county's 3,176 employees earned median annual compensation of $44,270 in 2003, compared to $46,302 in Alexandria and $53,119 in Fairfax County.

Prince William has struggled over the years to strike a balance between offering competitive salaries to retain trained personnel and getting caught up in a salary war with much richer Fairfax and Montgomery counties. For years, the county had an informal policy to offer salaries that lag behind their richer neighbors by 10 percent.

"It assumed that we could offer less because the cost of housing and other expenses was less than others,'' said Connaughton, who made $40,999 in 2003 in his part-time job as chairman. But he said that led to a situation where, by 2000, 15 percent of county positions were vacant.

Since then, the county has bolstered pay. Department heads say they are now able to retain employees better. But it is still a challenge, because local governments in the region not only compete with each other but also with the federal government.

County police lost six officers to federal law enforcement agencies so far this year, up from four last year, said police Chief Charlie T. Deane, who made $133,248 in 2003. His department is constantly recruiting new officers at starting salaries of $37,000 to $40,000.

"It's a very competitive market,'' Deane said.

The county fire department has had a hard time recruiting and retaining qualified emergency medical technicians and supervisors. As a result, the department has been paying a lot of overtime to keep staffing up.

In 2003, 16 fire lieutenants made more than $90,000, including four who made more than $100,000. Without holiday pay and overtime, lieutenants earn a maximum salary of $77,614, said Assistant Fire Chief Kevin McGee, who made $108,987 last year. The county fire chief, Mary Beth Michos, earned $132,796 in 2003.

Fitzwater, the county personnel director, said Prince William is constantly comparing its pay scales with its competitors. It uses 120 jobs that are easily comparable, such as police officers and administrative assistants, to measure whether the county is competitive with Fairfax, Arlington County and Alexandria. Prince William just lost a senior jail manager to Arlington.

Fitzwater said those are the communities to which they lose employees, not to lower-paying governments to the south and west. So the county has to be in the thick of the competition.

"Being third out of four is not acceptable anymore,'' Fitzwater said.

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