Meet Mindy Russell, Government Finance Officers Association of Arizona President

Mindy Russell
President, GFOAz
Finance & Budget Assistant, Peoria

Mindy Russell is the current president of the Government Finance Officers Association of Arizona (GFOAz). GFOAz is an association that serves the government finance profession of Arizona and is made up of nearly 300 individuals who practice governmental finance. Their mission is to provide networking, training, and information sharing to develop and enhance the knowledge, skills and performance of those responsible for local government fiscal policy and management.

To learn more about GFOAz you can visit their website.

Please tell us a little about your background.
I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but have lived in Arizona since I was a toddler, so I consider myself practically a native Arizonan. I've been married to my high school sweetheart for nearly 40 years, and I was fortunate to have been able to be a stay-at-home mom with our two children for many years. Throughout my life, I've always been somewhat of an entrepreneur, but I started my professional working career as a "Kelly Girl" (through Kelly Temporary Services), with one of my assignments being the City of Peoria.

How did you end up in your current position with the City of Peoria?
After my six-month "Kelly Girl" assignment with Peoria's public works department in 1992, I was hired permanently by Peoria. In my first few years, I worked in several different departments - public works, the fire department, the city manager's office/community promotions, and community services. When I accepted a brand-new position in the revenue division of the finance department in 2000, I discovered that finance was really my niche. I worked in finance administration until I moved to the budget department in 2005, where I remain today. The time I spent in the various departments has been a real asset to me over the years, as I have had the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of much of our city and have gotten to know so many different people.

Please tell us about your history and involvement with GFOAz.
I began attending GFOAz training events and conferences in about 2000, and became a member of the Education Committee shortly thereafter. It was really great experience for me, and I learned so much about finance through my involvement on the committee. In about 2007, I became the Education Committee Chair and a member of the board. I derive a great deal of satisfaction knowing that GFOAz is providing terrific training and networking opportunities for our members. I'm a strong believer in the importance of training and education, and that's why I have been involved in GFOAz for the past 15 years.

What do you hope to accomplish in your year as president of GFOAz?
I'm so excited about the upcoming year! I am so fortunate to be surrounded by a terrific board, and I know that together we will accomplish great things! Many of our goals are tied to continuing the excellent work that our organization is currently doing, and I do have some new ideas to begin working on during my year as president.

One ongoing goal is to continue to provide timely, beneficial and economical training opportunities for our members, keeping us all up to date on the latest best practices and legislative changes. We are also looking at the possibility of adding more lower-level training for new employees. This ties into another ongoing goal, which is to reach out to non-represented or under-represented jurisdictions that otherwise have not been active in GFOAz.

Another goal we have had on our agenda for a couple of years now is to reach out to students in our community - high school, community college and university - to educate them on the career opportunities in the world of finance. We plan to accomplish this by creating relationships with local educational institutions, attending career fairs and eventually speaking to students in the classrooms.

In a recent planning workshop, our GFOAz Board came up with some additional goals we hope to achieve in the upcoming year and in years to come. We adopted a fiscally strong budget which will allow us to achieve these goals and accomplish some amazing things. We have decided as a board to enrich our scholarship program, offering additional opportunities for finance employees as well as students to attend our training events and conferences.

We plan to broaden the scope of our organization beyond training and education, to assisting and mentoring. It was surprising for us to find out that there are cities and towns who are experiencing some challenges with their budget and/or financial processes. We will work to create a kind of "mentoring" program, where our members will assist other jurisdictions that may be struggling. We have budgeted funding to help pay for expenses for the mentors who may travel to other locations to provide assistance

One of my personal goals is to provide effective networking opportunities for our members. I believe it is so important for us to get to know one another so we can reach out for assistance and feedback when we have questions. It also makes our training days and conferences so much more enjoyable when we recognize a friendly face and have an opportunity to chat a bit between sessions, grab a bite to eat, or share a few minutes over a cup of coffee.

Finally, I would love to see more of our members become involved in our organization. I have grown tremendously, both personally and professionally, through my involvement on the Education Committee and the GFOAz Board. It is my hope that others will benefit from this type of experience as well. In addition, I know our organization will gain so much through the fresh ideas and the wealth of knowledge that can be found among our members.

League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85007
Phone: 602-258-5786
Fax: 602-253-3874

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