DES MOINES -- A $50,000 retention bonus has raised Debi Durham's salary to about $204,000, making the Sioux Cityan the second-highest paid state agency head and one of nine top officials to earn more than Gov. Kim Reynolds.
The state sets a maximum limit for directors' salaries at $154,300, but administrative rules let some employees be paid a retention bonus if they commit to serving for a certain amount of time.
Durham, who has been director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority since 2011, and in early January Reynolds tapped her to also lead the Iowa Finance Authority, which administers housing programs. Durham had previously served as as interim head of the IFA after former director David Jamison was fired March 24 amid accusations of sexual assault and lewd behavior.
Durham's new salary represents about a $20,000 bump over what she had been making when she was just running the economic development agency, the Des Moines Register reported.
Durham said she took the job because she believes "in the mission," not because of the pay.
"I didn't do it obviously for the salary, because I could do a lot more in the private sector," she told the Register.
Before then-Gov. Terry Branstad appointed Durham the state's economic development director, she had served as president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and The Siouxland Initiative. She continues to maintain a home in Sioux City.
Durham will earn more than all but one Iowa agency director, the Register reported. Timothy Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard earns $213,256.68, according to the governor's office. But about 1,000 state employees earn more than Orr and Durham.
Iowa law sets the governor's salary at $130,000, and three aides to Reynolds and six newly appointed agency directors earn more than the governor, in a decision a spokesman said reflects the need to attract top talent.
"The salaries paid to governor's staff and department directors are what it takes to recruit and retain top talent," said Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Reynolds.
Other top earners in the governor's office include Sam Langholz, chief counsel; Paul Trombino III, the chief operations officer; and Sara Gongol, the governor's chief of staff. They'll be paid between $134,000 and $157,000.
David Roederer, Reynolds' budget director, said it's not unusual for staffers to make more money than the governor.
"From my perspective, it's not that the others are so much higher — it's the fact that the governor's salary is what it is," Roederer said. "But they know what those salaries are when they run for office."