Allison, We Hardly Knew Ye


Today is the last day of City employment for Finance Director Allison Stutts. 

She arrived at City Hall two years ago with the City’s finances in disarray, with over $1 million of ignored City fees and fines, with a budget “process” undeserving of that term; and with an Uptown TIF whose financial condition was so arcane the Rosetta Stone was needed to decipher it.

She leaves behind major improvements in every single one of those areas, with a budgetary process so much more disciplined, detailed and transparent that it should be basically fool-proof for her successor and the rest of City staff – assuming they don’t find a way to screw it up.

Stutts is, without a doubt, the single best hire by former City Manager Jim Hock – although he seemed to have tried his best to bungle that: he held off making a decision for almost a year after he interviewed her, until Mayor Dave Schmidt demanded that Hock hire a finance director as the 2010-11 budget cycle was about to commence, and it was clear that neither Hock nor the rest of the City Staff were up to the task after the previous year’s debacle.

Stutts, a CPA, proved that she knew her stuff right out of the blocks.  She jumped right in and made the budget process her own, overcoming interference and impediments from Hock and various special interests who were completely content with the City’s dysfunctional, deficit-producing financial system.

Her no-nonsense approach to City finances and overall management was like an Arctic blast to many of the City’s too-complacent staffers.  She also quickly demonstrated that she suffered fools not at all, which took her out of the running for Miss Congeniality even before the first round cut was made. 

For someone responsible for a municipality’s finances, however, that’s a good thing: the ability and willingness to take a hard-eyed look at every pet project, frill and outright waste that some special interest or another wants to label a “necessity” at the taxpayers’ expense, is a virtue rarely found in government.

And she was willing to go toe-to-toe not only with Hock but with Mayor Schmidt and the City Council, most notably this past September when she dressed them all down for sustaining Schmidt’s veto of the ICOPS contract, which nixed raises for five of her department’s employees whom, she noted, were doing the work of ten.  That, too, is a virtue rarely seen in the go-along-to-get-along, put-in-your-time-to-get-your-pension parallel universe of government. 

Stutts is leaving to start up her own financial planning business, a goal she already had in mind when she took the City job – and for which she recently earned the necessary credentials, despite working yeo-woman’s hours at City Hall while commuting from her home in Glen Ellyn.

She may not have been the all-time best City employee…but we’ve never seen a better one.  And the City and its taxpayers are so much the better for her all too short, but so very productive, tenure. 

Hail and farewell, Ms. Stutts!

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