Terri Velasquez is ending her term as president of the Government Finance Officers Association with a full year of accomplishments.
Representing the city of Aurora, Colorado the 20-year GFOA veteran brought a toolkit full of policy innovation and technology solutions to a grateful organization. Velasquez came into the presidency with a complete set of goals, some of them representing long term efforts. Promoting greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the public finance community has always been a point of emphasis.
“One of the initiatives I’ve had the honor to lead, even before my presidency began is the GFOA DEI initiative,” she said. ”With the support of the DEI committee, the executive board and the membership, GFOA amended its bylaws to include DEI.”
Putting action behind the words, the organization incorporated a pledge, published reports, and set financial policies laying out goals for treating people fairly in local government. Punitive fees, fines, and asset forfeitures add legal teeth as a remedy.
GFOA partnered with Civic Pulse and Engaging Local Government Leaders to create a diversity dashboard that displays key data points on gender composition of finance and budgeting officials for over 21,000 local governments across the country. Under Velasquez’s leadership, GFOA established a Racial Equity Task Force, initiated the End the Acronym Campaign and launched ongoing DEI initiatives including a GFOA scholarship program for minority students.
Diversity has been incorporated in training, best practices, and the criteria for serving on the GFOA executive board. It’s also become part of the selection process for the volunteers serving on association committees along with trainers, speakers, and appointed representatives. A DEI survey was conducted to determine how members would like to engage with their organization.
“The survey also gauged the tools and resources needed by GFOA members to implement DEI initiatives in their organizations and communities,” said Velasquez. “I look forward to GFOA continuing to build on these DEI efforts by defining key metrics for measuring our progress and developing educational and other resources to support our members.”
As social media continues to evolve, Velasquez trained her tech-savvy mind on leveraging the possibilities of a fully connected organization.
“Without social media, there would be less dissemination of timely information regarding training, education, and engagement opportunities that members have access to,” she said. ”It is also a great way to share positive stories about the successful achievements of our GFOA members.”
During Velasquez’s tenure the GFOA released its report on Meeting Demand for State and Local Public Finance Jobs that defined the employment crisis while providing several recommendations to the membership. The report’s findings and many other resources were distributed and promoted via social media links.
“Social media has been a game changer that allowed GFOA to expand its footprint in outreach efforts to members and non-members,” said Velasquez.
GFOA’s research on challenges in the workplace revealed the need for state and local public finance professionals is projected to grow while nearly a third of the current workforce nears retirement in the next ten years. Sharing solutions to tough problems was enhanced by a more thoughtful social media approach under Velasquez’s watch.
Forging successful partnerships has been a common theme running through the outgoing president’s reign. Velasquez oversaw the formation of strategic alliances with the American Public Works Association, the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia, and NAMS+, the IPWEA’s online asset management planning tool.
“These partners are instrumental in our strategic asset management efforts,” said Velasquez. “Our Australian and Canadian partners are further along in their studies and can provide resources to our membership that will assist governments in better management of their capital assets.”
Velasquez is especially excited about asset management sessions staged at the 2023 conference in Portland. “They include presentations from our partners that I recommend our members attend,” she said. “If schedules at the Portland conference doesn’t permit attending these sessions, GFOA has developed and will lead the first round of Capital Planning and Asset Management Class, and a new GFOA Asset Management class that will be launching in August.”
Among all her other efforts, Velasquez takes special pride in her leadership role promoting the Certified Public Finance Officer program. “GFOA’s CPFO program is important because it prepares our members for leadership positions in state and local governments,” she said. “I believe that anyone pursuing a government finance career should consider becoming a CPFO.”
Under Velasquez’s guidance the GFAO updated the CPFO certification exams and revamped the overall program. The CPFO exams cover a full range of skills including accounting, budgeting, compensation, procurement, debt, and investing.
Even though the president is stepping down, she is not stepping away. “As past president my duties include continuing to participate in the executive board meetings, the DEI committee, and the Strategic Asset Management initiative,” she said. “I’ll still be meeting with GFOA members and partners and providing GFOA presentations over the next year. “I’m very excited to continue to serve the GFOA members in this capacity.”
Velasquez has been serving as a representative of Aurora and Colorado all her life. She earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs before going to work as the Deputy Finance Director of Aurora in 2012. She’s been serving as the Finance Director since 2015.
With a little bit more free time on her hands Velasquez plans on staying close to home. “I enjoy spending time with my husband, Vincent,” she said. ”He and I enjoy bicycling, walking, and we like to spend time in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. We enjoy the beauty of Colorado’s outdoors and parks including the Great Sand Dunes, Colorado National Monument, Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods, Aurora Reservoir, and Cherry Creek Reservoir.” The couple also plans to spend more quality time with their two daughters and seven grandchildren.