The Highest-Paid Public Employee in the Poorest County in California

The Highest-Paid Public Employee in the Poorest County in California

Raymond J. Cordova, county executive officer of Imperial County, earns $282,093 with total pay and benefits. That’s 17 times the median per capita income of Imperial County residents, who earned just $16,409. By comparison, San Francisco’s highest paid public official, Chief Investment Officer William J. Coaker Jr., made $633,723 – about 13 times SF’s median income. San Francisco got the better deal: divide salary by population, and we find that San Francisco residents paid just 76 cents each for Coaker; Imperial County residents paid $1.60 each for Cordova.

Cordova is a low-profile guy in a low-profile community. With just 156,000 residents, Mexico-adjacent Imperial County is almost a postscript to the state. Cordova himself is nearly anonymous. The one photo of him on the internet – in which the sartorially splendid CEO is largely blocked from view by Supervisor Raymond Castillo – is the only one we could find; the county did not respond to requests for comment and a photo.

That made it hard for us to personally congratulate Ralph Cordova Jr., who, as Harry Bailey says of his brother George in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, may be “the richest man in town.”

Imperial County runners-up: Director of Child Support Services Gustavo Roman ($241,717) and Public Defender Timothy J. Reilly ($224,138).

By Conor McGarry. Sources include State Controller’s Office.


The California Policy Center is a non-partisan public policy think tank providing information that elevates the public dialogue on vital issues facing Californians, with the goal of helping to foster constructive progress towards more equitable and sustainable management of California’s public institutions. Learn more at

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