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State of Pay: Meet the Wisconsin state employee big-bucks king

By   /   May 6, 2011  /   16 Comments

By Kate Elizabeth Queram Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Who makes more money: the President of the United States, the governor of Wisconsin or a Wisconsin state employee who you’ve probably never heard of?

Wisconsin’s top paid state government employee is David C. Villa who oversees pension investments for Wisconsin state and local government retirees. His 2010 compensation — salaries and performance-based bonuses — exceeded $560,000.

That’s more than President Barack Obama’s $400,000 and Gov. Scott Walker’s $137,000 annual salaries combined. Villa’s salary is also 12 times the average state employee’s pay.

Nine out of the 10 highest paid Wisconsin government employees work at the investment board, according to a Wisconsin Reporter analysis of state employee salaries.

You can search the salary database of Wisconsin state employees by clicking here or clicking the button below. The links take you to a page where you can download an Excel spreadsheet of state worker salaries. (Story continues below graphic)

Just behind Villa on the 2010 list of Wisconsin’s top paid government employees are State of Wisconsin Investment Board Executive Director Keith Bozarth, who earned more than $467,000, and SWIB Managing Director Charles Carpenter, who earned more than $449,000.

“It makes people think of the people who should be making sacrifices when (public employees) are the ones asked to be making the sacrifices,” said Daithi Wolfe, a Wisconsin Retirement System member and former Madison schoolteacher.

Bozarth points out that SWIB employees are entrusted to handle $88 billion of investments, of which $80 billion are reserved for the thousands of retired state and local employees who opt into the Wisconsin Retirement System.

“We are managing his pension in a responsible way and he is profiting from our activity,” Bozarth said when asked what he would say to a typical state employee. “And we actually do a cheaper job here of managing that pension than if we sent the money to Boston or New York or (Los Angeles) or Chicago.”

SWIB said that keeping costs within state government would be less expensive than hiring outside companies to manage retirement assets.

As of June 30, 2010 the 1-year return for the Core Fund, the major retirement fund for WRS employees, was 13.3 percent compared to 14.4 percent for the S&P 500. The 5-year return for the Core Fund was 3.3 percent compared to -0.8 percent for the S&P 500.

Wisconsin’s pension system is still recovering from a $24 billion loss in assets from 2008 that Bozarth attributed to the national economic downturn.

Most state pensions have a smoothing mechanism that evens out investment gains and losses. Wisconsin’s five-year smoothing period detracts from investment gains during a good market year but diminishes losses during a bad market year.

“Smoothing helps address the volatility of the markets, but you don’t get a true reflection on a year-to-year basis based on market value,” said Kil Huh, a Pew Center researcher.

Retirees continue to feel the impact from the 2008 downturn. Annuities paid out to all 156,000 state retirees decreased by 2.1 percent in 2008, 1.3 percent in 2009 and 1.2 percent in 2010.

At the same time, six of the top 10 paid employees at SWIB earned incentive bonuses for exceeding 2008 benchmarks set by an independent company contracted by the agency.

Chad Neumann, a senior equities portfolio manager, earned $150,500 for his 2008 performance. Three other senior portfolio managers received performance bonuses exceeding $100,000.

Eight of the top 10 highest paid SWIB employees earned bonuses exceeding $100,000 for their 2009 performance.

Bozarth noted that pay for himself and other SWIB employees were still short of other public employees, such as high-profile athletic coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“They have a market that they have to compete in also, and there seems to be more of an acceptance of that and maybe that’s because people are more familiar with that market .. .it doesn’t seem to cause a lot of heartburn,” he said. “All we’re doing is trying to do is a fair job of keeping up with the market.”

Take a look at the State of Wisconsin Investment Board payouts for the past five years below. Each year listed corresponds to the previous year’s pay and compensation; for example, the 2010 chart refers to 2009 salary and compensation.

2010 Salary Incentive Comp Total
Villa, David Chief Investment Officer – Investment Groups $390,000 $187,280 $577,280
Bozarth, Keith Executive Director $271,488 $196,560 $468,048
Neumann, Chad Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $233,106 $186,533 $419,639
Hanson, Gail Deputy Executive Director $242,969 $142,869 $385,838
Butler, Laurel Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $192,112 $156,167 $348,279
McCorkle, Bill Head of Internal Global Equities $242,391 $103,308 $345,699
Mensink, Ron Managing Director – Analytics & Fund Management $199,165 $133,580 $332,745
Nelson, John Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $241,575 $74,158 $315,733
Carpenter, Chuck Managing Director – Private Markets $253,802 $61,823 $315,625
Gandhi, Chirag Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $185,878 $123,909 $309,787
2009 Salary Incentive Comp Total
Carpenter, Chuck Managing Director – Private Markets $253,802 $134,385 $388,187
Neumann, Chad Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $233,106 $150,500 $383,606
Villa, David Chief Investment Officer – Investment Groups $340,000 $0 $340,000
Butler, Laurel Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $192,112 $138,755 $330,867
McCorkle, Bill Head of Internal Global Equities $242,391 $32,250 $274,641
Bozarth, Keith Executive Director $271,488 $0 $271,488
Ludgate, Todd Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Intermediate $168,980 $100,420 $269,400
Hanson, Gail Deputy Executive Director $242,969 $0 $242,969
Nelson, John Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $241,575 $0 $241,575
Parrish, Scott Portfolio Manager – Private Equity – Junior $167,014 $72,419 $239,433
2008 Salary Incentive Comp Total
Carpenter, Chuck Managing Director – Private Markets $251,289 $206,638 $457,927
Hanson, Gail Deputy Executive Director $240,564 $171,955 $412,519
Villa, David Chief Investment Officer – Investment Groups $298,000 $100,000 $398,000
Neumann, Chad Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $215,699 $169,658 $385,357
Butler, Laurel Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $190,210 $170,897 $361,107
Bozarth, Keith Executive Director $268,800 $90,000 $358,800
Nelson, John Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $239,183 $102,516 $341,699
Spiekerman, Steve Portfolio Manager – Real Estate – Senior $200,000 $97,006 $297,006
Lewandowski, Dave Managing Analyst – Real Estate – Senior $169,215 $110,529 $279,744
Mensink, Ron Managing Director – Analytics & Fund Management $197,193 $77,394 $274,587
2007 Salary Incentive Comp Total
Hanson, Gail Deputy Executive Director $226,947 $175,829 $402,776
Carpenter, Chuck Managing Director – Private Markets $237,065 $152,238 $389,303
Hung, Alain Managing Director – Fixed Income $238,487 $142,781 $381,268
Doeler, Jackie Managing Director – Public Equities $213,850 $150,346 $364,196
Villa, David Chief Investment Officer – Investment Groups $254,800 $107,050 $361,850
Mills, Dave Executive Director (Retired in May) $115,752 $177,642 $293,394
Neumann, Chad Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $203,490 $88,676 $292,166
Butler, Laurel Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $179,444 $105,837 $285,281
Bozarth, Keith Executive Director (newly appointed in June) $256,000 $0 $256,000
Nelson, John Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $225,645 $18,125 $243,770
2006 Salary Incentive Comp Total
Mills, Dave Executive Director $252,000 $169,033 $421,033
Carpenter, Chuck Managing Director – Private Markets $227,947 $154,261 $382,208
Hanson, Gail Deputy Executive Director $218,218 $153,080 $371,298
Doeler, Jackie Managing Director – Public Equities $235,000 $133,682 $368,682
Hung, Alain Managing Director – Fixed Income $229,314 $133,064 $362,378
Nelson, John Portfolio Manager – Equities – Senior $216,966 $139,252 $356,218
Butler, Laurel Portfolio Manager – Fixed Income – Senior $172,542 $120,237 $292,779
Neumann, Chad Portfolio Manager Equities – Intermediate $177,876 $110,019 $287,895
Semka, George Portfolio Manager Private Equity $145,632 $105,482 $251,114
Villa, David Chief Investment Officer – Investment Groups (new) $245,000 $0 $245,000

For more on State of Pay:

WI state employees continue to dip into overtime goody basket


Facts from the Wisconsin state payroll


The Wisconsin state employee salary database



  • http://MoneyedPoliticians.net Jack E Lohman

    Exorbitant pay should indeed be eliminated, whether union or non-union, which some of these jobs are likely both. But the taxpayers should not take this hit. Nor should CEOs be allowed high salaries without the approval of the shareholder owners. But these people often pay off the politicians with campaign contributions to keep the system broken.

    Thus we need a president and governor that both recognizes this problem AND is willing to fix it by eliminating the political payola that fuels it. Public funding of campaigns are needed.

    Nor should we have a governor that is prone to privatize government departments, thus moving them from controllable to non-controllable status. But of course these new “private” entities will be allowed to give campaign contributions whereas the government entities cannot.

    Go figure.

    Jack Lohman


  • John Walejewski

    Miss leading article. One cannot justify or condemn the salary they earn without more details. This is a one sided story. What would and investment offficer in charge of a similar sized account receive in compensation from a private company? Over all,everything I’ve read recently from The PEW institute indicates Wi is one of the the few with retirement funds in the black. as a public employee yes I feel he makes much more money than I do,but at the same time I appreciate that the money will be there in when I retire as long as state does not raid it as was talked about by previous administrations including Tommy. Iam not saying salary in appropriate but more research needs to be done before printing an article like this. Often you get exactly what you pay for.

  • Gordon Cooper

    I would like to see the tax returns. See if they pay in or if they owe but the government looks away.

  • Alan Bergstrom

    I’d like to know who is funding this pay. If taxpayers are, this is an outrage! We’re paying again for the benefit of a small group of government employees! Anay and all pay and comp should be deducted from the monmey earned on the funds in these investments…not the taxpayers! What an outrage…and year after year. Chuck Carpenter and a few others are now multi-millionaires, thank you!

  • http://MoneyedPoliticians.net Jack E Lohman

    Of the first group above (2010) the only contribution of significance was Gail Hanson, which was also listed as Gail L. Hanson, but I don’t know if they are the same people. Judge for yourself at




    Both WDC listings are employed at Blue Cross so — *IF* they are the same person — their state salaries are likely over-and-above their company salaries.

    I’m guessing that they are NOT the same person, but that highlights yet the other potential problem, and that is why we can’t get our politicians to fix the healthcare system.

  • Peter N Schwab

    I am not sure what you are saying. So do you want more Government or less? I think that we as a whole in this country should stop complaining about what other people make. Class warfare is a Marxist tactic. I think salaries within a Government entity or Publicly held company should be scrutinized by the people responsible for doing so, ie., taxpayers and stock holders, otherwise it’s no body’s business. lets stop using the Marxist’s terminology and tactics.

  • Peter N Schwab

    I think it’s safe to say that we the taxpayer are funding his base salary and the rest of his compensation is a percentage of what he brings in to the fund it self. Like a broker basically. I don’t mind paying people good money for a job well done. Remember our state retirment system is well funded because of the way it’s managed. In fact the system it self and the way it’s managed has been envyed across the country for years. My problem is paying for all the beauracracy and redundency that exists within Government as well as the fluff jobs. That’s what needs to be eliminated.

  • http://MoneyedPoliticians.net Jack E Lohman

    I want smaller government. We must get rid of the bloat, but we’ll never do that while those who get the bloat also fund the elections. There are only two kinds of money; public and private. We could have full taxpayer-funded elections for $5-$10 per taxpayer per month, as compared to our current system which costs $1300 at the state level for the taxpayer goodies that are passed on to the Fat Cats that seek government favors. With politicians working for taxpayers we’ll THEN get them working for us rather than them. See:


  • http://MoneyedPoliticians.net Jack E Lohman

    Sorry, I meant $5-$10 per taxpayer per YEAR, and it’s now costing us $1300 per taxpayer per YEAR.

  • Eileen Newby

    I find the tone of this article inflammatory. The SWIB is governed by an independent board of directors elected by the shareholders. The board approves compensation. There are over 120 employees who work for the board and their compensation is an expense of the fund, not the state budget. As every independent audit has shown, this is one of the best run fully funded retirement systems in the country. It would cost the fund MORE to pay for outside money managers. These top executives could earn the same or more anywhere in the marketplace because they are talented fund managers.

    The governor and his cronies would like nothing more than to use this retirement fund for political gain. Hands off! This should not be a political issue. This is an earned benefit and, once earned, it belongs to the shareholders. The history of the SWIB is remarkable for its lack of political corruption and intelligent leadership and it should stay that way!

  • Hap Daugherty

    Ive been in the system for over 40 yr and retied 12.What the reporter fails to mention is that we have one of the strongest pensions in the world,not just the country ,and its because of these people.These people have provided me with a pension along with SS that i can live on.Any fool out there that thinks they havent earned their money is just nothing more than a political hack,trying to promote their own agenda.Lets face it these people are paid for what their worth,and believe me they are worth a lot more than the hacks whod like to vilify them.Keep up the good work SWIB

  • Gary

    Social security should be a privet account just like the state workers. But the government could not keep there hands off it.

  • Joanne Brown

    As a state employee, I have no problem at all with the investment managers getting paid at market rates. If the pension money were in private hands (either through my own investments or contracted out), we’d be paying these rates plus a cut for the company that was managing the funds. SWIB does a great job because it is able to attract really good managers with a really good compensation plan.

    It is unfortunate that the remaining state agencies, local governments, and university will not be able to offer such good compensation plans under the current administration.

  • Paul L Fisher

    I am not quite getting your point, this is pay for performance. Also, you missed some higher paid state employees. UW Madison football coach gets $2.5 million per year.

  • http://conservativewisconsin.com xlaurenstephens

    Really? But it is ok that the unions have brainwashed their minions into thinking that Scott Walker is evil because he is making millions of dollars in salary? lol. The unionized workers have been USED, LIED TO and MISLED. The unfortunate part is that they never bother to research the facts on their own, they just follow along blindly… if union bosses say it, it MUST be true.

  • http://conservativewisconsin.com xlaurenstephens

    Are you nuts? Why would we want public funding of campaigns? Ummm wait, do not bother answering that because as a tax payer I don’t want to fund ANYONE’s campaign. Once you start doing that, then EVERYONE is going to run for office. And we saw just how useless public funding was in the Supreme Court race, all the third parties jumped in the game. So what now, you want to restrict others from advertising too? Government control is NEVER a good thing.