Public Watchdog.org

Allison, We Hardly Knew Ye

12.21.12

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!

To read or post comments, click on title.

9 comments so far

Absolutely correct. We have made a lot of progress over the past three years, but it would have been virtually impossible without Allison’s willingness to be the much-needed bull in the china shop, identify problems which had persisted for years, even decades, and then come up with sensible solutions.

Her greatest skill, however, was being able to explain the problems and solutions in a way that laymen (and that is what our elected officials are) could understand and act upon. As I said last Monday night, the taxpayers of Park Ridge have no idea how valuable she was to them and how much they will enjoy the fruits of her labor for years to come.

She will be greatly missed.

Allison Stutts will be missed. She grasped the errors of her predecessor(s) and organized the City’s finances in a coherent manner previously unknown. The big question is whether the people currently in City management can assist the City Council in developing a rational budget.

Actually, I am optimistic. But, the basis for my optimism is Allison Stutts herself. Her contributions to the City are obvious. Without implying anything about her successor, Ms. Stutts’ contribution to Park Ridge would be hard to exaggerate. I wish her the best in her future career.

I say good riddance. She was the number one source of the cancer at City Hall.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No surprise, this comment: the slugs and the slackers usually resent the achievers.

NO…No….No!!! PD you are obviously have to pay more attention to your handbook (or replay the video). It’s not slugs/slackers vs. achievers. It’s makers vs. takers.

Anon 821am- By every account you are absolutely wrong. Please give at least one concrete detail.
While you are at it, please tell us what “cancer” is going on at city hall.

That’s a ridiculous comment without even 1 thing to back it up. Have at it, be descriptive as possible. But, you must have your own agenda.

It would appear that Allison Stutts has a HUGE amount of fans in this town. So why is it that we will no longer have her working for the city??

1. Exactly what attempts were made to keep her on board??

2. What was her reply to these attempt?

EDITOR’S NOTE: “It would appear that Allison Stutts has a HUGE amoutn of fans in this town”???

The vast majority of people in this town have no idea who Allison Stutts is or what she accomplished for this City, which is one of the reasons we wrote this post.

So does that mean that nothing was done to attempt to keep her?? No discussions?? No possible offer of salary increase?? No discussion between an elected official(s) and the CM about her value ane what we would be giving up??

Many here love to draw comparisons with the private sector. On more than a handful of occasions in my career I have made such decisions and offers about a mamber of my team. Sometimes I have been able to keep that person and sometimes they have moved on. Based on your comments, as well as those of the Mayor, I am simply curious if any such discussions took place.

That leads to my second question. A persons answers in such discussions are often very revealing about the organization as a whole. It would be very interesting to hear her responses.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We understand that the mayor and one or more aldermen discussed several options with Ms. Stutts, but that she was committed to setting up her own financial consulting firm.

Nothing would have pleased me more than having Allison stay on. As reported, she was committed from the beginning to hanging out her own shingle in early 2013. We talked often last spring about delaying her departure, but she remained committed. Neither money nor control was an issue. The driving force was Allison’s long-term career plan for herself.

Allison, Alderman Knight and I to a lesser extent spent the rest of her time with the City trying to implement a strong framework for sound budgeting and spending practices through changes in the municipal code and internal procedures. They are good procedures, and both staff and the elected officials should remain respectful of those changes. They have already saved us money, and they promise to save us a lot more.

I normally don’t respond to such disgraceful commentary, but i am making an exception this time. Thank you for the great article on Ms. Stutts. You know some people in life are not able to take responsibilities for their own failures, so they must blame others for there own short comings. Ms. Stutts asked nothing more of the employees at City Hall, but to be responsible for there actions, jobs and nothing more. If the angry person refers to her as cancer then they must love to feed from it. They need to get over themselves and realize they were part of the problem and couldn’t face reality. Ms. Stutts brought back integrity to government and didn’t need to win the popularity contest her work,effort and intelligence spoke for it self. Good Luck and best wishes to her!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Agreed. She actually was saddled with a number of staff people who literally had no formal accounting or finance background, so Ms. Stutts ended up doing her job and a lot of theirs as well.



Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>