Balancing act

Published 7:43 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

As if he is not busy enough as Washington’s chief financial officer and assistant city manager, Matt Rauschenbach in recent days has been serving as interim city manager.

That means added responsibilities as he watches over the city’s fiscal health.

From the time former City Manager Josh Kay left at the end of May until Monday when new City Manager Brian Alligood reports for duty, it’s been Rauschenbach who’s been managing the city. It’s something he’s done before. It’s something he could do again. Rauschenbach’s used to helping balance budgets, but as interim city manager he’s having to balance his normal duties with the day-to-day management of city operations.

Co-workers make that balancing act easier to accomplish, he said.

“It’s challenging, but we’ve got an excellent Finance Department staff that has stepped up. Some of the things I might normally do, they’re taking care of those for me to give me the additional time to do the other things that come up. A lot of things for the city manager, they are not planned; they just come up — addressing citizens’ issues and other events that happen,” Rauschenbach said. “The department heads know their areas extremely well. The day-to-day stuff they handle. If they get into an issue they need support on, I’ll help. For the most part, they know what they’re doing in.”

As chief financial officer, Rauschenbach’s involvement with a pothole would be signing a purchase order to have it fixed. But as interim city manager, Rauschenbach said, he would likely listen to a city resident complain about a pothole on his street.

In recent days, Rauschenbach, on his second stint as interim city manager, has been preparing an agenda for a tentative joint meeting between the City Council and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to discuss several issues, including the location of a new county jail. Getting the city’s new budget approved in late May has allowed him time to focus on that joint meeting, Rauschenbach said.

“As a matter of fact, I am meeting with (County Manager) Randell Woodruff and Jim Chrisman (assistant county manager and chief financial officer for Beaufort County today) to review the agenda. I put on the list what I thought needed to be on there. I sent it out to council, and am starting to get their responses,” Rauschenbach said.

He believes the meeting is overdue and an important one.

“In my tenure here, the communication hasn’t been what it should be between the two governing bodies. I think Josh was instrumental in working with Randell to get the parties at least talking. He kind of had this organized before he left,” Rauschenbach said.

Rauschenbach said the council asked him if he would be willing to serve as interim city manager until Alligood arrives Monday. The council also asked him to consider applying for the city manager’s position in the wake of Kay’s departure.

Councilman Edward Moultrie said there’s a reason Rauschenbach was asked to apply for that job.

“I have the utmost confidence in Matt’s ability to serve as interim city manager,” Moultrie said.

Moultrie believes Rauschenbach has what it takes to serve as a full-time city manager.

“I think he could become an effective city manager. He has the knowledge of financial systems and what it takes to run a city,” Moultrie said.

When serving as interim city manager, Rauschenbach has the same powers as a full-time city manager. Usually, he said, those powers are exercised in regard to personnel issues.

And an interim city manager’s responsibilities sometimes require action even while taking a few days of vacation. Last week while taking a few days off, Rauschenbach said, he was “overnighted” documents to sign, which he “overnighted” back to City Hall. That’s something he would unlikely do as chief financial officer.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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