NCLGBA: The People Who Balance NC Communities
We invite you to hear from North Carolina’s local government budget professionals who believe in the value of public service and consider it an honor to bring value to their communities in their respective roles.
Twice a month we will be highlighting NCLGBA members who are an important part to the balance in their communities starting with High Point’s Eric Olmedo.
High Point is a thriving city of over 110,638 residents situated along the rolling Piedmont crescent region of North Carolina. High Point lies in four counties, Guilford, Davidson, Forsyth and Randolph. With Greensboro and Winston-Salem, High Point anchors the Piedmont Triad region with a population of 1.6 million. It is the nation’s 33rd largest combined statistical area. Centrally positioned along the East Coast with easy access to several interstate highways and the Piedmont Triad International Airport, High Point is a great place to live and to do business. Home of the semi-annual High Point Market, the largest wholesale finished goods home furnishings market in the world, High Point has a tremendous impact on the economy of the entire Piedmont Triad. An average of 80,000 retail home furnishings buyers, manufacturers sales representatives, interior designers, and news media attend each market held in April and October of each year. All 50 states and more than 110 foreign countries are represented at these market. For the regional economy, the annual economic impact is $5.39 billion and over 37,616 jobs supported.* In addition to the home furnishing’s industry, some of High Point’s largest employers include such diverse companies as Ralph Lauren, Bank of America, Thomas Built Buses, Aetna, Solstas Lab Partners, New Breed Logistics, Volvo, Patheon, and Newell Rubbermaid.
What was the biggest challenge facing your community this fiscal year and how did you address it as part of the budget development process?
The biggest challenge High Point faces is low assessed value growth. To help address this, our new City Manager, Greg Demko, wanted to put additional resources into code enforcement, street sweeping, blighted property demolition, and other programs to clean up the appearance of the city as part of a long term strategy to increase property values.
In order to free up General Fund dollars to devote to these initiatives, I proposed raising the monthly storm water fee from $2 to $3, which raised an additional $1.3 million in our Stormwater Fund. Prior to FY 2016 the General Fund had paid debt service on bonds we issued for stormwater projects, and this debt service will now be paid for out of the Stormwater Fund, which freed up $1.3 million in the General Fund for these initiatives. We were able to add 4 code enforcement officers, devote $500,000 to building demolition and other neighborhood cleanup programs, and add a streetsweeper and equipment operator by making this change.
What drew you to a career in public service?
I was a working student and paid my own way through college, which took a little longer than normal. As a 24 year old senior my advisor strongly suggested I do an internship. I was a Political Science major at the University of Texas at Arlington, and he wanted to send me to DC to do a Congressional internship or to Austin to intern at the statehouse. I told him I was too poor to move away, so he sent me to the City of Grand Prairie, Texas, where I interned in the Human Resources Department. I was hired full time after graduation, and moved to the Budget Department when there was an opening. I quickly realized that the Budget Department was the one department in the city where you get a broad overview of the entire operation and that was appealing to me.
What career advice do you wish someone would have shared with you when you started your first local government budgeting job?
Fortunately my first Budget Director gave me great advice and suggested I get involved in professional organizations. In North Texas we have a very strong regional professional organization called the Urban Management Assistants of North Texas (UMANT) which was designed for entry level and mid-management public sector employees. I was very involved in UMANT and served as the President in 2006. UMANT is also affiliated with the Texas City Management Association, and I served on the board of that organization as well. The Government Finance Officers Association of Texas is also very strong. My advice to anyone starting out is to get involved with professional organizations, and it is why I strongly support my staff members to participate in NCLGBA, GFOA and other organizations.
What excites you most about FY 2016 in your community and your department?
It is exciting to have a new City Manager that will rely on the Budget Department as a sounding board and as his eyes and ears in the departments. He will expect us to know what’s going on in the departments and to give him sound advice. I am also excited to have a new member on our staff filling the Budget Analyst role. Roslyn McNeill started in January and finished her first budget season. Watching her develop into the role and seeing the Senior Budget Analyst, Laura Altizer, continue to grow into her role is exciting to me.
If you didn’t work in budgeting, what would you do?
I guess I’d be selling widgets somewhere.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
My twin sister and I are New Year’s babies. I am three minutes older so I was the first baby born in Arlington, Texas that year.