CPFO Spotlight: Bill Christianson

Bill Christianson, CPFO, is deputy comptroller for the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Photo of Bill Christianson

1. Why did you want to become a CPFO? 

Two reasons. First, GFOA has established itself as the preeminent standards body in the public finance sector. The GFOA training, seminars, and conferences that I have attended over my career have been top notch. Earning a certification as a Public Finance Officer from a well-respected organization like GFOA was a great way to obtain the credentials that will help take my career in public service to the next level. Second, I felt that the CPFO program was a great opportunity to build upon the lessons I’ve learned over the course of my career. The CPFO program exposed me to GFOA’s best practices and recommendations on a wide array of topics. I find myself referring to these best practices frequently as situations arise, and the CPFO program got me very well acquainted with these best practices.

2. What did you learn going through the process? 

I learned how to study again! After going through my first two CPFO exams, I learned how best to prepare for each exam and restored the study habits that had gone dormant since I completed my Master of Public Administration 13 years ago. Being a lifelong learner is important to me. Redeveloping the skill of “how to learn” again was one of several key takeaways from the process.

3. How has becoming a CPFO made an impact on you in your profession?  

Earning my CPFO has solidified my credentials in the public finance field. Those who I have worked with during my career with the City of Milwaukee are familiar with my work and what my skills and abilities are. But others who I haven’t had the opportunity to work with will now see that I am a Certified Public Finance Officer through GFOA, and will have confidence that I am proficient and adept in the range of subject areas covered by the CPFO program. This is especially valuable to me in my current endeavor of running for the elected position of Comptroller for the City of Milwaukee. Being an experienced public finance professional and a CPFO gives residents the confidence that the City’s finances will be in capable hands if I am elected.

4. What would you say to others thinking about becoming a CPFO? 

I would strongly encourage it. For anyone who is looking to solidify their credentials in public finance and take the next step to elevate their career, the CPFO program is an ideal way to do it. The number of exams can seem overwhelming at first, but setting a realistic timeline for completion and giving yourself a break in between exams makes it much more manageable. But stick with it! It is worth it.

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