Walking in a Winter Wonderland

By Joan Michaels Aguilar, CSMFO 2019 President

My final CSMFO tour of our state partner associations was to the Alaska GFOA conference in Anchorage Alaska. I was fortunate to have been joined by our CSMFO Executive Director Melissa Manchester for this wonderful experience which included being greeted by the season’s first snow.

Of all the duties a CSMFO President is responsible for, one of the better ones is representing CSMFO and traveling to the annual GFOA conference, and to the Oregon, Washington, and Alaska GFOA association conferences.

As prior presidents have noted, due to the smaller size of the Alaska conference, all the sessions are “general” sessions held together in one room. For comparison, the Orange County CSMFO chapter meeting I attended earlier this year had more participants.

But, like most things that might be smaller, I was impressed with and appreciated the quality of sessions and the welcoming atmosphere they create for everyone. As you’d expect, we share many of the same universal topics, such as implementing GASB 87, fraud (including a showing of All the Queen’s Horses), pension benefit challenges, cyber security concerns, and debt issuance. However, although Climate Change is a topic that California is certainly engaged in and concerned about, the session on the impacts of Climate Change in Alaska certainly carried a deeper, more immediate concern.

Many of the vendors in attendance are also CSMFO supporters. They shared with me their fond memories of our Palm Springs Conference and the excitement about our upcoming 2020 Anaheim conference.

But it was the genuine warmth and hospitality from Alaska GFOA President Joan Miller (Controller City of Wasilla) and her team that I’ll always remember.

We had fun on our first night singing Christmas Carols while walking back to our hotel. And, while in Anchorage, we got the chance to explore the city in advance of their intimate VIP dinner. This dinner included the leadership of AGFOA and also included the national GFOA President Elect Marion Gee (Director of Finance, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District), who was a speaker at the conference. Also, at the VIP dinner was the Oregon association President Kathy Leader (Chief Financial Officer, Clean Water Services Hillsboro, Oregon) and Washington association President Craig Warner (Financial Services Director, Yakima County, Washington).

The Tuesday night gala included some talented Polynesian dancers – I dubbed it Aloha from Alaska. We were all asked to wear Hawaiian themed clothes and we rocked it!! We even got to participate and entertain the group with our dancing skills. Melissa got to DJ, which wound up turning into a karaoke “pass the mic” experience to some popular songs you might expect (but without being able to read the lyrics). We definitely represented California well at the Alaska Conference and it was my honor and privilege to be there on behalf of CSMFO.

I thank you for your support throughout this year and I’m so humbled to be your CSMFO President. I wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season and look forward to seeing you in the New Year at our Anaheim Conference (only 49 days away and even less for online registration that ends Jan 10th)

Joan Michaels Aguilar is the 2019 President of CSMFO. Joan has over 20 years of experience in municipal finance, including having served as the Deputy City Manager or Finance Director in City of Dixon, King City, and serving as the Budget Manager in Burbank, Colton, Azusa and Covina.

Joan has been actively involved in CSMFO for most of her career, serving in multiple CSMFO Chair roles including the Communications Committee, Budget Committee, and Administration Committee. Joan has also served as a CSMFO Board of Director, Vice Chair of the Conference Site Selection Committee, and member of the Program Committee, 5 Host Committees, League Policy Committee Appointee, and Nominating Committee.