County Controller Bob Adler is retiring at the end of his term in January, leaving his elected seat open after two years at the helm of the county’s accounting and audits.
Adler was named controller by the Board of Supervisors after Tom Huening left mid-term but would have needed to run for election in June to retain the position. Adler, however, has different ideas for his future.
“You reach a point where you have a long to-do list in life and it doesn’t include accounting anymore,” Adler said.
Adler, who will soon be 60, said his personal list includes traveling to visit family — he has children in Impanema, Sacramento and Los Angeles with a grandchild on the way — and landscape photography which he exhibits in Peninsula galleries.
“I want to retire when I can still carry 20 pounds of camera equipment on my back,” he said.
Adler said he is departing now because the office is in excellent hands with its management and staff.
“It’s good to leave knowing it can do the day-to-day on its own,” Adler said.
Adler is also announcing his retirement early to let qualified candidates gear up to file paperwork and strategize a run. He said he’s the last person to tell voters who to choose but said the best candidate will be a fiscal leader, not in it for the politics and able to provide objective analysis. He also advises that the new controller trust his staff and think about how to provide better financial reporting.
State law holds that the controller must meet at least one of several criteria: be a certified public accountant; hold a baccalaureate degree in accounting or its equivalent and not less than three years experience within the last five years in a senior management position in a public agency, private firm or nonprofit organization.
Adler has been a certified public accountant for 35 years and has 20 years of county government experience under his belt. After four years running the general ledger in Marin County, he moved to San Mateo County as the audit manager and then assistant controller in 1999 and controller in 2012.
In his position, Adler oversees 43 employees and makes sure $1.8 billion in property taxes is properly allocated to every entity in the county.
The department is currently in the middle of a new payroll implementation and just finished a property tax system audit. Adler is pleased the county’s redevelopment agency dissolution went well, without the legal challenges of other counties, and said he will continue upgrading financial systems and keeping costs low up until his departure Jan. 3.
In 2010, a 17-person Charter Review Committee recommended making both the controller and treasurer-tax collector appointed jobs but county supervisors unanimously rejected the idea. Two years later, the supervisors revisited the idea for the controller’s job after Huening’s departure and supporters argued it is more an administrative than policy-making position. Despite a lack of opposition, a majority of voters that November favored keeping the status quo.
Nine other California counties have appointed controllers.
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