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See You Later: Finance Consultant Toni Nelson Retires

Goodbyes have never been part of my vocabulary. I’d rather say, “see you later.” The word ‘goodbye’ has always felt a bit finite, and after many years of traveling across the State of Washington to work with local government entities of many sizes I have found that leaving the door open to return also left the door open to communicate. For many that know me well, I love to talk, so leaving the door open comes naturally.

For those of you who have heard me speak, I have told many an audience that I have a hard time getting through all of the material before my allotted time is up. If someone has a question, I am always willing to discuss and, hopefully, provide an answer. ๐Ÿ˜Š

When I left my home in Alaska all those many years ago, I received a big sendoff, but no one said ‘goodbye.’ We all somehow knew that we would stay in touch. To this day I am still in touch with those friends, business associates, and of course, my family. I never dreamed that 30+ years later I would have expanded my sphere to include every small city/town in Washington State, as well as some counties and special purpose districts. I had no idea that after many years of traveling on every state highway and most of the county roads, I would have increased the number of people that I like to refer to as ‘business friends’ tenfold! This one fact alone has made both my professional and personal life so fulfilling! That one little saying, “Life is Good,” is truly how I feel about my career with local government.

I have been fortunate to meet so many great people along this journey. Each step along the way has opened so many doors to work with so many of you. Starting with the Town of Twisp, moving to the State Auditor’s Office as the ‘small cities specialist,’ venturing out during the great recession as a financial consultant for local government, and completing my journey here at MRSC as its Finance Consultant. I am so thankful to have been given each of these opportunities and experiences that formed my local government career. My work here with MRSC has expanded not only my sphere of local government entities but my breadth of knowledge as well. The word ‘restricted resources’ has a whole new meaning, and I had no idea that levy lid lifts could be so complicated! Updating the Revenue Guides for Washington Cities and Town and Washington Counties was both a labor of love and an obsession!

Of course, no one, and certainly not me, can say that their careers were without help along the way. There are so many individuals that touched both my heart and my career but certainly there are a few that I feel grateful to have received their kindness and help along the way. As part of my ‘see you later,’ I want to acknowledge a few colleagues who both inspired me and opened my eyes to different perspectives and viewpoints:

  • Stan Finkelstein, past Executive Director of AWC, was one of those. He had his own unique sense of humor, a vocabulary that I had to run to keep pace with, and his breadth of local government knowledge was impressive. He taught me so much, and I only wished that I could have said ‘see you later.’ Unfortunately, Stan passed away this year just as COVID-19 was starting to impact our lives.
  • Dave Dubrouillet, the first mayor that I worked with in the Town of Twisp. He helped me understand and appreciate the resiliency of small local government.
  • Gayla Gjertsen, another individual who taught so many, so much, but her realistic approach to teaching definitely spoke to me!
  • Mike Bailey, my speaking partner for many years at the municipal budget workshops and many other conference venues. We created a Yin-and-Yang approach to the fiscal issues impacting smaller and larger local government entities that made working and presenting fun. Mike has forever etched in my brain the importance of adopting financial policies and strategically thinking about the budget process ๐Ÿ˜Š.

 My love for the work that I do was made stronger by the words of wisdom and support of colleagues but also the countless individuals that I worked with or spoke to over the years. Each of you helped me understand and become an advocate for the challenges that face local government.

You have made my career so fulfilling that you have almost made it too hard to retire. So, I won’t say goodbye, but I will simply say: Thank You!

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Toni Nelson

About Toni Nelson

Toni worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on budgeting, cash basis accounting and reporting, and the application of Washington State B.A.R.S. requirements. During her time at MRSC, she also conducted multiple trainings annually on similar subjects and was consider an expert in small city finance issues. She retired in 2020.