BOE interviews four for CFO job

Published 11:08 pm Friday, March 25, 2011

Four candidates seeking to fill the presently vacant Chief Financial Officer for the Demopolis City School System each faced an hour long interview before the Board of Education Friday.

Three were familiar faces in former Demopolis City Clerk, Linda Bird, Director of Fiscal Services at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, Doug Brooker and Greene County CSFO, Evelyn James, who is a Demopolis native and resident.

The lone candidate with no current ties to the city was Brewton CSFO Brad Pendergrass.

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Each candidate faced a battery of 16 prepared questions.

Bird, who resigned her position as city clerk nearly a year ago, began the afternoon as the first interview.

Given the status of the General Fund and coming proration, each candidate was asked how they would balance a shrinking checkbook.

“You really have to get down and look at what expenditures you have and how they’re being expended,” Bird said. “The best thing you can do is to see what service that you have and see what services you cannot do without.”

Properly funding those services, Bird said would help preserve the most critical services and identify those which could be eliminated with minimal impact on the classroom, adding that funding would be allocated “lean.”

“The one thing that we normally look at first is your staff,” said James, who was second in the interview process. “Because that’s where most of your money is spent. Not wanting anyone to lose jobs but most of the time you have to look at the non-tenured employees first. Then you look at support personnel. Then you look at expenses of prior years…What we want to do is not hurt the children in the classroom. We want to keep as much materials there, and the best teachers there, so that the system continues to advance.”

“I think it’s important to take a look at what you have and then decide what you have to have and what you would like to keep,” said Brewton’s Pendergrass, who was the third interviewee. “Then as we found things…we would listen to what the superintendent and the board thinks we need to put in or take out of the budget.”

“The biggest thing to me is…going back to making sure those teacher units and the things for the students are untouched, or untouched as much as possible. Any cuts would have to come from…things you can do without and not affecting the student part of it,” Brooker, who was the final interviewee of the afternoon.

Also, at the conclusion of the interview, each candidate faced the obvious question: Why they think they are the best fit for the job.

“I am a good accountant,” Bird said. “I have my CPA. I’m experienced in accounting and finance and cost accounting and I’ve had experience in governmental accounting and experience in auditing government agencies. I think that I’m a good worker and would be able to provide the City of Demopolis and the school system with honest, integrity and good accounting skills.”

“I have always been faced with challenges,” James said, “but I never had a problem because I led by example. When I went to Greene County as CSFO…I was faced with a challenge and I met it. Because I am in a smaller system it doesn’t mean my responsibilities as CSFO are any different from any other system.

“I am a product of this community. I know the people here, I live here…I’m a product of this school system.”

James also noted experience dating back to 1997 using the accounting software currently used by Demopolis City Schools.

“I’ve had eight years experience as CSFO and experience running my own business and managing people,” he said.

Pendergrass said his experience in internal auditing can help identify opportunities to increase efficiencies.

“I’m very dedicated to the accounting functions and I’m very loyal. This is one job I had always told my wife that if it ever became available, I would apply,” Brooker said. “I do not do anything that would be below board…I can’t tell you I don’t ever make mistakes but I never do it out of neglect.

“I’m a loyal supporter of this town and this school system.”