Longtime city finance director retiring: Brian Ponty has helped manage Redwood City’s money for 30 years

  • February 3, 2014

By Michelle Durand
Daily Journal Staff Writer

Brian Ponty isn’t sure what his next chapter holds but the retiring Redwood City finance director is pretty sure his wife does.

“She has a very keen talent in keeping me occupied around the house. I don’t think I’ll get bored,” Ponty said.

Ponty also has college visits with his son, golf and a “proper vacation” without constant email and iPad checks on his post-city career to-do list. Although after so many years with finance pretty much his life, Ponty said he doesn’t have too many hard and fast plans for days when he’s not living and breathing municipal government.

“I’m just looking forward to a blank canvas,” he said.

After 30 years keeping Redwood City’s finances in check, Ponty, 56, is leaving in May. During his tenure, Ponty has seen quite a few changes and says without hesitation the downtown development is the biggest.

He’s also seen his share of surprises. One of them — the state’s dissolution of redevelopment agencies — and the ensuring headaches prompted thoughts of changing course about two years ago.

“I started to think about how life would look,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to retire and spend more time with my family and experience other things in life.”

But as much as Ponty said he’s looking to the future, he also celebrates his time with Redwood City. Ponty, who graduated with degrees in accounting finance from CSU East Bay, spent four and a half years as a management analyst with San Mateo County before opening the paper one Sunday and spotting the Redwood City job advertisement that would put him on his current path. The position offered the breadth and depth of a city’s overall financial picture rather than pigeonholing him in a smaller niche like budgeting or treasury management.

He joined the city in 1985 as an assistant finance director and accepted the finance director spot in November 1993. When he first joined the city, he estimated staying three to five years. His departure marks significantly more time passed than that initial prediction and he currently oversees a department staff of 18 and a budget that includes estimated general fund revenues of $86.6 million.

Ponty said he’s always enjoyed finance and how it allows him to solve problems. He appreciates pulling together his team and gathering around a white board to find the answers. Those are the people he counts among what he’ll miss most.

He is also grateful for a city which he said allowed him to reach those conclusions without being bogged down in a tedious process. That license to act is part of why he stayed so long, Ponty said.

City brass say they are also glad for Ponty’s longevity.

“Brian has been instrumental in seeing us through tough financial times,” said City Manager Bob Bell. “His expertise in ‘all things financial,’ his ability to look beyond the numbers to see the impacts of financial decisions on staff and our community, and his calm and professional demeanor will be missed.”

The city is actively recruiting for Ponty’s replacement and Bell said it is a tall order.

“As city manager, I know that finding someone to fill Brian’s shoes will not be easy, but I am confident that our city’s reputation for fiscal health and strong leadership will attract top quality candidates for this important position,” he said.

A posting notes the window closes Monday, Feb. 17 and the salary range is $164,676 to $201,216. The recruitment characterizes the ideal candidate as an “adept manager of people” with an “exceptional customer orientation.”

Ponty’s advice for his successor is more straightforward — come with a healthy passion for municipal finance and curiosity.

Ponty doesn’t discount the possibility of coming back to work for a government or nonprofit agency where he can add value. Although he’s ready to step away from a full-time workload, Ponty said there are still many aspects of the job he enjoys.

“This is where I realized what my role on Earth is,” he said.

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