Approximately 5,375 delegates, guests, and exhibitors participated in GFOA’s 109th Annual Conference, Innovation and Resilience, including 363 first-time conference attendee scholarship recipients. The conference was held May 31−June 3, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At the conference’s opening general session, GFOA President Bob Eichem discussed the importance of resiliency in government and the accomplishments of GFOA’s taskforce on resilience over the past year. His core takeaway was that “resilient governments accept the uncertainty of change, learn from past experiences, evolve, and come back from misfortunes better than they were before.” Eichem concluded his speech by highlighting two common traits he noticed in the public finance professionals he met over the year of his presidency: 1) “We solve problems and relish the opportunity to do so,” and 2) “We greatly enjoy what we do for the public, our communities, and our organizations.” Video of Eichem’s speech is below.
At the annual business meeting on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, the membership elected Marc Gonzales, director of the Department of Finance at Clackamas County, Oregon, president-elect of the GFOA. Five new members-at-large, Robert Bishop, Jessica Brown-Linton, William Hall, Terry Stone, and Ben Watkins, were also elected to the GFOA Executive Board. New GFOA President Heather Johnston, city manager for the City of Burnsville, Minnesota, accepted the gavel from outgoing President Bob Eichem. Johnston emphasized that she would like to spend her time as president listening and learning from GFOA members, saying, “I want to know how you are making the links between generations, encouraging younger professionals to make public service a career, and the challenges you face in this endeavor.”
Johnston also focused on resiliency, noting that with all the changes facing local governments, the call for resiliency is more than a suggestion – it’s an imperative. The world has changed a great deal over the past decades, and the public sector is being called on to deliver higher quality services with fewer resources. Readily available information is a way of life today, with access to information – and misinformation – just a few clicks away. Ensuring that the public sees government as transparent and accountable, rather than bureaucratic and redundant, is increasingly difficult, and increasingly important, she said. How do we cut through all the noise? Johnston’s answer: Innovation.
Innovation goes hand-in-hand with resiliency, Johnston explained. A resilient organization is firmly rooted in its principles, and it is flexible and innovative in how it makes those principles a reality. Change is a constant, and the only way the public sector can truly be responsive to those changes is by trying new approaches and learning from each other. One kind of change that is often discussed is the changing attitudes of different generations. Governments need to find a way to capture the knowledge of experienced professionals while they work to attract recent graduates into public service. Over the next year, then, GFOA will work toward developing practical tools and techniques that will help public finance professionals of all generations become more engaged in this work, which is so critically important to the communities we serve. Video of Heather Johnston's address as incoming GFOA president is below.
Download Slides from 2015 Annual Conference
With 57 concurrent sessions, GFOA’s 2015 conference covered all the major public finance disciplines: accounting, auditing, and financial reporting; budgeting; capital planning and economic development; debt management; financial management; pension and benefit administration; and treasury and investment management.
Audio recordings of all this year’s conference sessions are available for purchase on GFOA’s website, along with audio-only recordings of both keynote addresses. The recordings will allow you to refresh your knowledge of today’s most talked-about public finance topics.
- Download the final conference program for the 2015 GFOA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Released May 20, 2015