December 19, 2012 10:51:36 AM
When Mike Bernsen announced he was stepping down as chief financial officer for the city of Columbus a week ago, it evoked two prevailing emotions.
The first emotion was sadness. In his four years as the city's CFO, there was great comfort in knowing someone with Bernsen's credentials, integrity, commitment and deportment was keeping a careful eye on the city's finances. If Bernsen ever had a personal opinion about the issues that emerged during his tenure at city hall, he kept it to himself.
Bernsen was, in fact, everything you could ask of someone in his position. His conduct in managing the city's fiscal affairs has been beyond reproach.
We also much appreciated Bernsen's accessibility. Unlike many officials, Bernsen was seldom more than a phone call away, taking time to explain the often complicated world of city budgets. Bernsen seemed to understand what many public officials do not: Presenting information honestly and clearly is an act of high service to the citizens. It is clear he went above and beyond his job description in helping reporters understand the financial aspects of a wide range of issues involving the city.
The second prevailing emotion is one of trepidation, not only because we fear people of Bernsen's caliber are hard to find but also because of the city council's uneven record in filling key positions. And make no mistake, there are few positions of more critical importance than finding the right chief financial officer.
Our fears will only be assuaged if the council looks not for a candidate that will do their own political bidding but will put the city and its residents above all other interests.
Our concerns will be muted if the council casts a truly wide net in seeking the best candidates for the job. We will be comforted if, upon selecting the very best of those candidates, each of those candidates will be given a full and fair hearing before the public.
The city council has an opportunity put petty politics aside for the benefit of the people.
We are sad to see Mike Bernsen go and wish him well in his new role at Columbus Light & Water. We are uneasy over who will be chosen to fill his shoes.
Both emotions will be mitigated only if the city council finds the right person, the right way.