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Balancing more than the numbers

Farmington Finance Director Tea Malecha said she looks forward to her new role as she leads veteran city staff finish year-end budgets and prepare for audit season. Kara Hildreth / Contributor

Finance Director Tea Malecha looks forward to improving the city of Farmington.

Malecha, 33, began her administrative role Jan. 8. She joins city staff as the former finance officer for the city of Excelsior, a role she held for a year and a half. Prior to working in city finance, Malecha served as the finance manager at a St. Peter, Minn., municipal hospital.

Farmington City Council approved her annual salary at $90,173, the first step of the salary range that tops out at $112,717. She replaces retiring Director Robin Hanson, touted for her work to improve the city's fund balance, bond rating and overall city financial forecast during her five-year tenure.

"I have seen all the work that Robyn has done and I am so happy to continue that and see everything she has done," Malecha said.

Malecha is ready to dive into the city finances with staff who are hard at work finishing year-end budgets and preparing for the audit season.

"It is wonderful to have veteran staff with the knowledge and deep understanding of past finances, and the way things operate and everyone here has been extremely helpful and the staff is nice," she said.

She will work on how best to address challenges including $10 million in deferred maintenance projects.

"I need to see what the City Council goals are because that helps guide me, and I can see what they want to achieve, and I know we would really like to get all the debt paid down and be able to pay for things instead of having to bond," she said. "We want to do what is best for the citizens and be sensitive to their needs, and I am always open for questions because it is important to have transparency so I can be there to answer questions so residents can gain an understanding."

She grew up in southern Minnesota and reports how the rural, agrarian landscape reminds her of her childhood roots. "It is fun listening to the train go by," she said.

No surprise, Malecha loves working with numbers — something that runs in her family.

"My mother was a huge influence on me and my whole life was watching my mother be an accountant and an accounting supervisor," Malecha said.

Malecha, who lives in Lonsdale with her husband and son, Masen, 4, said she looks forward to meeting more local residents and learning about the city. "I really enjoy the community, it seems like a tight-knit community."

She was welcomed here by being taken on a tour of the city facilities and the city itself. She learned about Farmington's story, its growing pains and robust development as the city has evolved from a small town to a growing Twin Cities suburb.

"It is so important to know everything that is going on, and I like to learn about the different aspects and work with the public works director and learn what her goals are for the city and learn what the park and rec goals are," Malecha said.

"I want to pull it all together and see what the city can afford and where the city leaders want to go with the long-term financial plans, so we can be able to afford things with the least amount of bonding possible," she said. "It is really important to be sensitive to the residents because there are those who are conservative and those that want to make a lot more improvements and do it much quicker, so you need to find that path and one that is best for the city."