This week, City Finance Director David Millican announced his resignation. Since Millican says an article in the New Mexican on his resignation "didn't quite get the quote right," we thought we'd let him offer some parting thoughts in his own words (edited a little, for clarity).
Without further ado, here's David Millican on Santa Fe, the economy and the city's plans to restructure itself:
When I got here in 2008, the real important issues then were getting oriented to the city, installing a new financial system and starting to work on finance department strategic planning, teamwork and customer service issues.
That shortly gave way to three big projects:
dealing with the downturn and trying to come up with budget solutions that would minimize the impact on services, the community and on employees. The second one was the preservation of the College of Santa Fe, and the third one was getting a set of water rates passed that resulted in the city getting its first-ever AAA bond rating. Those all took a lot of time. I did a bunch of other stuff too, but as we did the peer review this year, which is something I worked on as part of the restructuring committee with [former City Manager] Galen [Buller], [current City Manager] Robert [Romero], [Affordable Housing Director] Kathy McCormick and other people, it became apparent that the real focus of work in finance was going to be down at the detail level
—systems design and operation stuff, detailed account reconciliation, building new systems to support the payroll system—and the peer review, which is going to come out next week, would be recommending some changes.
I guess the other thing that happened last year was I went from being a Finance Department director to also being in charge of...IT and risk management. There was a lot going on.
Now that the budget's started to stabilize, IT, which previously had always reported to someone else, and technology generally ha[ve] become important enough that the peer review team is recommending that it be a department
of the city.
We also recommend that the utility department have [its] own financial management unit instead of relying on Finance, and we're looking at the possibility of combining payroll function and HR benefit functions in order to improve the way the new payroll system works and to improve customer service for employees. Finally, we're going to centralize and increase the city's capacity at contract management
and administration. It's been a key issue, there's a lot of public interest in it, and it needs to have more than the part-time attention
of our very small purchasing office.
All of those things are things that I've done over my 40-year career, but they don't make my heart go pitter-pat,
and there's a lot of that work to be done.
On the other hand, the stuff I'm really good at which is sort of—the New Mexican
didn't quite get the quote right: I said I'm good at strategy, comma, planning and complex analysis*—things like the College of Santa Fe or the rate increases that got the bond rating which really had a big effect on the interest paid to the city. Those are things I do well. The city has projects like that that I can do well, but I don't necessarily have to be here full time
to do them.
If it's [as] a consultant or [by] contract, I can't really talk about it while I'm still an employee of the city. We'll find out whether that works for Robert Romero and the mayor or not.
What the peer review found, and what I found, was that the [city's] systems are more technically oriented than oriented to the needs of customers, and you need to build changes into both of those. They need to be better and more efficient from a technical standpoint, but they also have to be easy for customers to use. We're not necessarily hitting both those of targets
at the same time.
These were the hardest two years
, and because I was in California before this, my whole life [since] I became a finance director had been devoted to dealing with financial shocks to local government. To a certain extent, I ultimately found that dismantling organizations and the services that the community wants is not a fun part of the job.
It's possible to get really good at it, and we did, but it takes a long time, and in this case, Santa Fe needs somebody who has a longer horizon than I have right now.
Before me, the previous [finance] director had been here 14 years, and the director before that had been here 24 years. The changes that take place now are going to require a long commitment. They're not the kinds of things that happen overnight.
*The New Mexican quoted Millican as saying his strengths were "planning strategy in complex analysis."