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City of Gering still searching for a finance director

City of Gering still searching for a finance director

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Being without a permanent finance director for nearly a year, Gering city officials are looking for alternative methods to fill the vacancy. The position has been open since January 2021 when previous finance director Renae Jimenez resigned.

City Administrator Pat Heath said the city is looking at hiring a recruiting firm to help with the search. At this time, he said, they have compiled a list of five firms but hope to narrow it down to three in the near future and then get proposals from each of them about their process.

“I’ve never gone through this process with a recruiter before, so we want to make sure we have the right firm on board to get us the best person possible,” he said. “…We’re hoping by the end of the year, first part of January, we have someone lined up to begin that process.”

Heath said the city first advertised the position statewide and regionally in July, but received no applications by the end of the month. They advertised a second time from mid-August into September and received two applications at that point.

“…but we need more than that for a pool,” Heath said. “This is kind of a little different position than most. It’s an executive decision, and you want to have the best person, so you want to have the best pool of possible.”

With not nearly enough applicants, Heath said that’s when the city made the decision to hire a recruiting firm to help. The city hopes to find someone, through the recruiting firm, who is a CPA and has municipal experience, preferably in the state of Nebraska.

Heath said the challenge for finding someone to fill the position is likely the same reason the city has struggled to fill various positions in other departments, including water wastewater, maintenance and landfill — the labor shortage affecting the entire state and nation.

“I think there’s a national trend going on right now, and I think it all kind of began with COVID and I’m not sure where it’s going to end,” he said. “I hope it ends soon, because I know everybody’s looking for employees, I think, city-wide and region-wide and statewide and nationally … I’m at the end of the baby boomer age, and so a lot of these people, I think, that were working just kind of decided ‘I’m going to retire early with COVID.’ And, and maybe that’s what a lot of them did, but I still think there’s more to it than just that.”

While the city carries on its search for a new finance director, it will continue to contract out Scottsbluff’s finance director Liz Loutzenhiser to take care of city finances in the meantime. Heath said Loutzenhiser was a huge help, especially as the city waded through its late audit at the same time as putting together its budget.

“It’s great that Scottsbluff, of course, has allowed their financial director to come over and assist us, and she’s been doing that on an hourly basis,” Heath said. “It’s worked very well, and she’s done an excellent job. And so, we really want to make sure we thank the City of Scottsbluff for allowing her to do that.”

Heath said the biggest challenge the city of Gering faced in its time without a finance director was completing the audit. Because Jimenez left her post right during audit season, the city didn’t fully complete the audit until October, let alone meet its original March 31 deadline.

“There were some issues. We had to catch up on a couple of things,” he said. “…you got all the daily things you have to catch up on, but we got all those caught up and once we were caught up, it went pretty smooth.”

The three main issues that were highlighted in the audit were segregation of internal controls, uncollateralized bank accounts and submission of audited financial statements. The audit outlined the causes for all three issues to be related to COVID-19 and vacant accounting positions. Now that Loutzenhiser has been contracting with Gering for a while, Heath is confident that the next audit process will go much more smoothly.

“Staff has learned a lot with having someone different in here. They’ve learned a lot and seen some different ways of doing things, so it’s been very, very positive the experiences we’ve had this year,” Heath said. “Even though we’ve been kind of without a permanent one, having someone here interim-ly has been very helpful.”

Ideally, though, while Gering has been enjoying its time with Loutzenhiser, a new finance director will be found to take over soon.

“Hopefully we can find someone soon, somebody on the first part, first half of next year,” Heath said. “…The City of Gering’s a great city to work for. Gering’s always been a proactive city and tries to do the best we can do. … Working for government is rewarding; you’re serving the public and you try to serve them the best you can, and I think people take pride in that. I sure do, and I always have. That’s what I think is just Gering’s a great place to work.”

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Reporter

Olivia Wieseler is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9051 or by emailing olivia.wieseler@starherald.com.

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