Magazine article Government Finance Review


Magazine article Government Finance Review


Article excerpt

[president's message]

This article has been adapted from GFOA President Bob Eichern 's annual conference speech in May 2014.


Have you seen significant change in the last three to five years in your organization, or in your career? If you haven't, your situation is extremely unusual. Change has become a major part of our work world.This column will focus on change and the benefits of developing resiliency in dealing with it.

Whether it is the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the pension naysayers, the federal government looking at tax reform that would limit or eliminate tax-exempt debt, or a proposed federal preemption of state and local taxing authority, the list of change goes on and on. The GFOA has consistently taken a leadership role regarding the issues and topics that can affect our organizations, and it is tenacious in finding ways to keep our 18,000 members informed and ready to respond when changes are on the horizon.


I have spent considerable time over the past several years focusing on the topic of resiliency. In the finance area, the evolution of fiscal sustainability efforts has been very important. In 2001, Tim Grewe, then-president of the GFOA, emphasized the need to incorporate sustainability into the everyday aspects of our organizations. It was the first time I'd heard of the word "sustainability" in the context of something other than using recycled paper, but oh, it was so much more.

By 2009, a lot had changed. I was fortunate enough to be one of the instructors for a GFOA preconference seminar on sustainability. One morning I happened to notice Tim having breakfast in the same dining room. I had never met him but wanted to tell him about how his introduction to sustainability had led me to what became a major portion of my work in Boulder, Colorado. His reply was, "that is good to hear, I didn't know if anyone was listening." We were listening, Tim.


What is resilience? Is it the same as sustainability? Short answer: NO. It is not. Sustainability is about stability and maintaining what we have. Resilience is about the elasticity and agility involved in being able to adapt and bounce back from acute shocks (like economic downturns or natural disasters) and chronic stresses (such as homeless and transportation issues) that have occurred and will continue to occur, and continuing to bring disruption to our organizations. Building a resilient organization is not a new flavor-of-the-month management scheme. The financial aspects are evolution, not revolution - that is, we need to build on our already solid foundation of best practices.

How does the concept of resiliency apply specifically to our world of finance? Let me tell you about a couple of great resources. First, read the GFOA whitepaper, Building a Financially Resilient Government through LongTerm Financial Planning, by Shayne Kavanagh. The paper, which is available on the GFOA website at gfoa. org/research-reports, talks about having more than one way out of trouble so you can bounce back quickly.

Several of your peer organizations are already incorporating the concepts covered in the long-range financial planning classes GFOA offers. In January 2014, the GFOA offered a webinar on the topic, and a concurrent session - Building a Financially Resilient Government - at this year's national conference. (Slides are available at, and a CD of the session is available from the GFOA's e-store.)

For some organizations and proponents, resiliency is only about recovering from a disaster, but that view is still too narrow. Resiliency can be integrated into everything we do in our organizations and become embedded. It can become a part of our master and strategic plans, our goals, our values, our policies, best practices, hiring practices, evaluations, succession planning, and the list goes on. …

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