Phoenix official nominated to lead D.C.'s finance office
WASHINGTON, Sept 26
WASHINGTON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Washington, D.C., could have a new chief financial officer before the end of the year, officials said on Thursday, after the city's mayor nominated Jeffrey DeWitt, currently the CFO of Phoenix, Arizona, for the post.
DeWitt would replace Natwar Gandhi, who is retiring after helping guide the capital city's financial turnaround over more than a decade and who called the selection of DeWitt an "inspired choice."
Mayor Vincent Gray will send the nomination to the city council by Monday.
The city council's finance committee will then review the application, and could send the nomination to the full body for a vote by the middle of November, said the committee's chairman, Jack Evans, at a press conference. Still, Evans did not commit to approving the nomination.
A city without a state, Washington had a history of financial troubles that led the federal government to take control of its operations in the 1990s.
The chief financial officer is independent of the city's political leadership, and rating agencies consider the strong, separate office a plus for the city's credit. Gandhi is often lauded for pushing the city into an era of fiscal responsibility complete with annual budget surpluses and high credit ratings.
Dewitt has been the Phoenix finance chief since March 2009, and his experience overseeing a $7 billion debt portfolio and helping the city maintain top credit ratings during the housing downturn will serve Washington well, Gray said.
One of the heads of the search committee for the CFO opening, economist and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alice Rivlin, said competition for the post was fierce and the list of applicants "was not short."
Addressing questions about how he would maintain the independence of the office, DeWitt said he is known for collaborating with elected officials. Still, he said, he would make "reasonable and rational estimates" in revenue projections regardless of possible political pressure so the city could avoid cutting spending or using reserves.
DeWitt also emphasized his passion for technology, saying he would quickly set to work updating the city's tax system.
Gandhi's tenure included a 2007 scandal where tax office employees embezzled $48 million by issuing false refunds in an outdated property tax system.
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