After five years of service to Boulder City, Finance Director Diane Pelletier is retiring. I was mayor in 2018 when Interim City Manager Scott Hanson hired Diane. She came to us after 18 years of distinguished service for the Atlanta Regional Commission and 12 more for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority in North Carolina. We thought she was a major steal at the time. And she’s proved us right in every respect.
Diane immediately went to work improving both the culture and the expectations of our finance department. Hired in the thick of budget season, she saw right away that our budgeting process was extremely cumbersome for City Council members and virtually inaccessible to the public. In less than a month, Diane and her staff miraculously transformed the budget process by introducing informative, user-friendly tools that helped bring transparency and clarity to all stakeholders.
Both as a City Council member and a citizen, my favorite additions were her executive summary documents. When I need information, I want it straight, undiluted, fast and in easy-to-understand formats. And those summaries certainly did the trick for me, garnering rave reviews from our community as well.
Initially, Diane’s department published executive summaries for our operating and capital budgets but eventually created additional summaries for our utility and airport enterprise funds, too.
Quickly adding the capital improvement plan as a major and distinct component of our budget was another significant accomplishment, resulting in the city’s first-ever asset management plan, which now guides rehabilitation and replacement of capital assets.
Diane and her team also continued to expand the public’s accessibility to the city’s finances over time, first by launching the interactive online tool known as the Open Finance Portal in 2020 and then by implementing ClearGov software more recently. These tools increase transparency and efficiency by making it easy for citizens and city employees to instantaneously access data for each budget at virtually any time, sort that information by function, fund, department, service type or vendor, and then review it in as much detail as desired. All of these instruments have served to increase public trust by turning processes that were previously opaque, hidden, complex and confusing into new ones that are now much more open, user-friendly, simple and understandable to the average person.
Of course, the bottom line is also an important measuring stick of any finance department’s success. And that’s something Diane’s team always excelled at as well. For instance, one of the City Council’s overriding goals was to make all of the city’s funds independently self-sustaining, with each fund’s revenues covering its own expenses. To that end, Diane’s department undertook the task of separating each of our utilities (electric, water, sewer and landfill) into individual components for tracking and evaluation purposes.
Her group also helped create five new funds protected by state law, including funds for vehicle and equipment replacement, revenue stabilization, extraordinary repairs and maintenance, compensated absences and risk mitigation.
Helping to centralize the city’s purchasing structure into a single office with a consolidated contract database also saved the city $ 2.4 million in the first year alone. And navigating through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including planning and administering the use of millions of dollars in Cares Act and American Rescue Plan program money was key to ensuring fiscal responsibility in hard times.
Helping steer the city through the process of refinancing its 2006 utility revenue refunding bonds also constituted a major financial victory. Doing so decreased that debt’s interest rate by multiple percentage points, decreased annual payments by almost $100,000, reduced the payback schedule by four years and resulted in a cost savings of at least $3.5 million, all of which ultimately protects your wallet and mine.
Our city received the Cashman Award for those efforts, an honor that I know Diane is very proud of.
Speaking of awards, the Government Finance Officers Association named our city one of its 2020 Triple Crown winners, a prestigious award bestowed upon a select group of governments that manage to earn three sought-after financial distinctions in a single fiscal year — namely, GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting, the Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award, and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. Boulder City was one of only two Nevada governments to receive that award for 2020.
If I had the space, I could create a very long list of the finance department’s outstanding accomplishments during Diane Pelletier’s tenure, including the fact that all city audits for five years running have been free of audit findings. But what always impressed me most was Diane’s integrity and willingness to stand up for what she believed to be right, regardless of the consequences. That’s perhaps her greatest legacy and one that I sincerely hope our next finance director will continue to build upon.
So, thank you, Diane! Your years of dedicated service have been and will continue to be a blessing to all of us.
The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.
Rod Woodbury has resided in Boulder City for more than 40 years and is a partner in the law firm Jolley Urga Woodbury &Holthus. He served on the City Council from 2011-2019, including four years as mayor.