Q and A: Hanson is new to the job, not to Farmington
It's been almost three weeks since the city of Farmington's new finance director, Robin Hanson, settled in at her desk. But just because Hanson is new to the job, that doesn't mean she's new to Farmington.
Hanson has lived in Farmington for nearly 20 years. When her kids were younger, she was involved in almost every youth sports program the community had to offer, and she served on Farmington's parks and recreation commission. Now that her kids are grown, she's ready to take on a new challenge - running the finance department for the city of Farmington.
I know you've got a finance background. Can you fill in the blanks on that a little bit for me?
I did five years of public accounting, four years of which was in auditing, and one year, almost, was spent in preparing tax returns. And then I moved to Minnesota Housing Financing Agency in St. Paul, where I was the finance director for many years, and then I changed positions and was deputy commissioner before I retired to stay home with my kids. I was at Minnesota Housing almost 13 years, I think.
Now that you've been here for a couple of weeks, how are things going?
Going well. Very well.
What are you doing here now?
Well, I have updated a lot of accounts with signatories, I've met some of the people we do investments with and banking, and our financial advisor and our auditors. I've done some work on investments, and we're looking at a potential debt refunding with interest rates being so low. We have certification of utility bills going on, so it's a whole variety of things.
You haven't really been doing much with the budget this year, right?
Nope, that's David (McKnight, city administrator). He's taking the lead on the budget. That is to come for me in the future, but he's taken the lead on 2013.
Now that you're here and he's working with the budget, you're just kind of taking it in and learning the process. Is that right?
Yes, I've become familiar with the general assumptions that are in the budgets and I have been focusing now, just these past few days, on the whole debt component, trying to get familiar with the debt overall, the specifics as to these three issues we're looking at refunding.... That's going to consume a lot of time over these next few weeks.
You also had some background with the city of Farmington before, didn't you?
I was on the park and rec commission for several years.
Has that experience been helpful to you at all, in this new position?
I think it will be, as they look at various needs they have, as far as having some background and understanding. Randy (Distad, parks and recreation director) was kind enough to give me a tour, so I was able to see how a lot of the parks and trails and things have progressed since I was on the park commission. I got to see the new fresh coat of paint and the updates at the ice arena, the new Rambling River Center, and some of the park work that's going on at Lake Julia.
And it maybe gave you a one-up in knowing some of the folks around city hall, too, I would assume.
It's been really interesting, seeing some of the people I've come into contact with over the last 20 years, coming in and asking about volunteer opportunities, or coming in and asking questions about a bill or inspections. Yes, there are a lot of people I've had contact with, and there are a lot who are just brand new.
Have you really thought about what you're looking forward to, down the road, with this job? Maybe thinking ahead to about one year?
Well, it will be really nice to have been through everything at least once. It's all new. It's exciting to be back, doing this. A lot of it's familiar, the overall process and what's happening, but the specifics are different and that makes it interesting. And meeting and working with new people, everybody has different perspectives and different ideas. It's been good.
You were also involved with several community organizations in Farmington over the years. What were those?
I did Farmington Youth Baseball, Farmington Youth Track, Farmington Youth Athletic Association, Farmington Travel Basketball. I think that's most of them. Whatever my kids' interests were. Actually the last couple of years, my work has been with my church, Lord of Life. My children went to Christian Life in elementary school. I spent a lot of time at Christian Life when they were younger. That was before the whole sporting thing.
So are you still involved in anything?
My kids are done with sports, so I'm out of that, which is why I spent most of my time volunteering at church the last four years.
Are you looking forward to your future with the city of Farmington?
Yes. I'm learning lots. It's fun to see all the pieces come together. When we go through the audit, I'll be able to get to understand 2012 really well, and I'll get familiar with 2013 through the budget process, and before you know it, it will be time to do the 2014 budget.
So no shortage of work for you then?
Nope. No. No shortage of work. Boredom is not going to be a problem around here.