August 18, 2022 | Spotlight

UGA program prepares local government financial professionals for success

UGA program prepares local government financial professionals for success

Writer: Margaret Blanchard

Government financial professionals are honing their leadership skills in a new program offered through a partnership between the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Georgia Government Finance Officers Association (GGFOA). The Institute of Government is a Public Service and Outreach unit at the University of Georgia.

In its third year, the Public Finance Leadership Academy (PFLA) equips new and emerging public sector financial management practitioners with the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully manage the fiscal affairs and activities of a local government or public organization.

Crystal Welch, chief finance officer for the City of Woodstock, graduated from the program in April and credits it with providing more than just training, but an experience.

Industry Partners

The program is grateful for support from the following:

  • BatesCarter

  • Davenport

  • P. Morgan

  • Mauldin & Jenkins

  • Moody’s Investors Service

  • Rushton

  • Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP

  • Stifel

“PFLA challenged my way of thinking through the questions and discussions with the presenters and my classmates. The program’s approach to leadership was not just what a leader should look like — or even how to become a good or a great leader — but it reminded me of the responsibilities and the impact that we as government finance leaders have, and provided the tools to help us embrace that,” she said.

The 6-month program features a combination of training on the latest accounting practices and insight from industry professionals. It expands on the institute’s Level I and Level II Finance Officer Certification programs, which provide foundational knowledge and technical skills critical to the financial management of local government.

“We designed this capstone program to address the need for more advanced government leadership training for finance professionals across the state. PFLA is all about identifying existing talent to build capacity in the public finance profession for local governments,” said John Hulsey, an Institute of Government faculty member who directs the program.

Networking with colleagues from cities and counties across the state has been beneficial for recent graduate Natalie Williams, treasury division director for Gwinnett County.

“If there’s a question of how we’re doing something, now I can reach out to somebody else in another city or county to ask them how they’re doing it and bounce ideas off each other. It’s helpful to connect with colleagues in similar roles because a lot of times we’re stuck in our bubble, so it’s good to have a different perspective,” she said.

The program also benefits from working relationships with several leading financial management, legal and CPA firms.

“We’re fortunate to have great private-sector partners who provide professional guidance and training. The combined knowledge PFLA graduates bring to their municipality or local government is beneficial to the entire state,” said Angie Sorrow, president of GGFOA and court/capital financial administrator for Henry County.

Vernetha Halls

PFLA isn’t strictly for accountants or other financial managers, but for anyone who deals with budgets like Vernetha Halls, assistant director of Fleet Management in Dekalb County.

“This training is important because it gives all the tools required to establish sound financial practices but is also very informative for individuals who are not directly finance people. It’s important to give that broad overview of how government works, why we do what we do. When you understand what people do, you learn to appreciate them more and how your piece fits into the puzzle,” she said.

The PFLA program is now seeking applicants for its third cohort, which runs October 24 through April 27, 2023. The deadline to apply is September 16. For more information and to download an application, visit cviog.uga.edu/pfla.

GGFOA Scholarship

GGFOA has set aside funding for two scholarships for qualified applicants accepted into the program. To apply, submit the GGFOA scholarship application and a copy of the completed PFLA application to Jennifer Fricks (jfricks@socialcirclega.gov), chair of the Scholarship/Awards Committee, by September 16. Please include GGFOA-PFLA Scholarship Application in the subject line of the e-mail. Applicants will be notified by September 30 if they’ve received a scholarship.