Southaven may be Mississippi’s third largest city, but eyebrows were still raised when it came to light that its mayor, Darren Musselwhite, makes nearly $30,000 more than the governor of the entire state, Phil Bryant.
Mississippi Watchdog obtained records showing that while Gov. Bryant brings home $122,160 a year, Musselwhite nets $150,000. Bryant is also outdone by Southaven’s city administrator, who makes $138,000. In comparison, the mayor of Mississippi’s largest town, Jackson, makes $120,000 annually. Both Musselwhite and Bryant are Republicans.
Mississippi is America’s poorest state, with a median household income of just $37,963, and 24 percent of its population living below the poverty line. 19.4 percent of households rely on food stamps, and 8.6 percent of Mississippi workers are unemployed.
Musselwhite, a former minor league baseball player and insurance salesman, was elected in June 2013, defeating 16-year incumbent Greg Davis. During the election Davis had been indicted for embezzlement, and was recently convicted and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for his crimes.
Musselwhite wanted to “restore confidence in city hall,” he said during his campaign. Seven months in to his term, he reflected that “I’ve had a lot of people say that I’m coming in good but I’m going to come out bad. The message I’m determined to prove is that all politicians are not corrupt. You can do things the right way and that is my goal.”
The Mississippi governor’s salary is set by state statute. The maximum salary of any public employee in Mississippi, also set by state statute, is 150 percent of the governor’s salary–$183,240 a year. Concerns about the mayor’s salary also came up during Davis’s tenure, who actually made less than Musselwhite currently does, having taken home $145,000 his last year as mayor.
Mayor Musselwhite, who has yet to comment on why he accepts a salary higher than that of both his notoriously corrupt predecessor and the governor of the entire state, did at least get a public smoking ban passed recently. “Cities with a ‘healthier’ image have an advantage in attracting new business,” he said at the time. $150,000 well earned.