Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced that Burlington Chief Administrative Officer Bob Rusten will be leaving the CAO position on September 1, 2017, after serving in City Hall since 2013. Rusten played a critical role in numerous key initiatives over the last four years, including the restoration of the City’s credit rating, voter passage of a five year infrastructure plan, and substantial reform of the City’s retirement system.
“I am deeply grateful for the tremendous service that Bob Rusten has provided to Burlington as our CAO,” said Weinberger. “I have known this day was coming, but that does not make Bob’s departure any easier. For four years, Bob has served with dedication, precision, and good humor. Generations of Burlingtonians will benefit from the work Bob led to restore the City’s finances, strengthen its management, and responsibly steward its infrastructure.”
“I am proud of the work the CAO’s Office has completed with the Mayor, City Council, and City employees to resolve the City’s longstanding financial issues,” said Rusten. “With a sound financial footing from which to work, and with an incredible Clerk Treasurer’s team and City Department Heads and staff, the Mayor and Council can feel more confident than ever in focusing on the future of Burlington. I look forward to continuing to work with Burlington on City projects.”
"Bob Rusten leaves an impressive legacy as the City's CAO, with many significant accomplishments behind him," said City Council President Jane Knodell. "In his dealings with the City Council, he was always forthcoming and crystal-clear. I admire his integrity, work ethic, and commitment to good government. On behalf of the entire City Council, I thank him for his outstanding service to the people of Burlington."
"As a member of the CAO search committee four years ago, I had a great feeling that Bob’s presence in City Hall would be one our City would benefit from for years to come,” said City Councilor Karen Paul. “My only regret is that the end of his tenure has come too quickly. Bob’s involvement in pension reform and collaborative bargaining were instrumental in the significant and ground-breaking advances we have made in the past few years. As an auditor, I respect Bob’s commitment to best practices which has led to a cleaner audit and strong financials. Bob is one of the unsung heroes in City Hall and he will surely be missed.”
Prior to becoming the City of Burlington’s CAO, Rusten successfully led financial turnarounds in both South Burlington, Vermont and Wilmington, Vermont. Rusten also brought valuable experience with pension reform and collective bargaining to Burlington, having sat at both ends of the collective bargaining table. At different points in his career, Rusten led union negotiations on behalf of municipalities as well as participated in union negotiations on behalf of a steelworkers union.
During his years as Burlington’s CAO, Rusten worked to rebuild the City’s financial integrity, enhance collaboration between the City and unions, and address longstanding Department staffing needs while also producing balanced, forward-looking budgets.
With Rusten’s guidance and effort, the City:
· Restored its credit from the edge of junk bond status to an “A” rating. In March of 2017, Moody’s Investors Service not only affirmed the City’s A3 credit rating, but revised the City’s outlook to positive. Moody’s also upgraded the Airport’s credit rating to Baa3, and BED’s credit rating to A3 during Rusten’s tenure.
· Secured a clean management letter and audit for FY16 (in FY12, the City’s auditor found one significant finding and 12 material weaknesses).
· Led successful rounds of union negotiations resulting in substantial pension and health care reform. This reform saved taxpayers an estimated $2.2 million from 2013-2016, and is projected to save a total of $8 million by 2020. Rusten, as part of the City’s negotiating team, and with the active participation from the City’s four bargaining units, helped in drafting contracts that now include a shared risk process to address spikes in the actuarial required contribution.
· Created the five year, $50 million Capital Plan, which will allow the City to properly steward its streets, sidewalks, water mains, Bike Path, and other vital public infrastructure for future generations. Rusten’s work helped ensure the Capital Plan would come at a modest cost to property taxpayers, and would ultimately save Burlington taxpayers money by keeping pace with needed infrastructure improvements, rather than waiting until costly emergency interventions become necessary.
· Addressed long-standing staffing needs within the City, including supporting the addition of staff positions to IT, Police, and Fire Departments. These staffing increases were accomplished with minimal impact to the City’s budget.
· Assembled disciplined, forward-looking budgets that saw the City realize its fund balance target nearly two years early.
· Reorganized the Clerk/Treasurer’s Office, including improvements made to the front desk, licensing, elections, and modernizing land use records that led to better services for taxpayers at lower overall costs.
Mayor Weinberger, City Attorney Eileen Blackwood and Rusten are in conversations about Rusten continuing to serve the City beyond September 1, 2017 in a part-time role that would include work on collective bargaining issues and other special projects. Rusten’s substantial institutional knowledge on these matters, and his proven ability to secure benefits for taxpayers, would make his continued service in this limited role valuable. Any such role would have to be supported by the City Council as part of the FY18 budget approval process in June.
Burlington Electric Department General Manager Neale Lunderville has agreed to lead the search process for a new CAO.
Source: Mayor 5.17.2017