Sara Lenehan of the City of Little Rock (CFO of the Year Finalist, Public Sector)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:00 am  

Sara Lenehan

Accounting, it could be argued, isn’t the most glamorous profession, but don’t tell that to Sara Lenehan, the finance director for the city of Little Rock.

Lenehan sees accounting as a profession that opens doors other fields couldn’t crack. “Accounting is a field that enables you to work with all aspects of an organization,” she said. “The knowledge and skills are transferable to many careers in both the public and private sectors.”

Lenehan applies her skills with numbers for the city as part of a 30-year career in the industry, mostly in the private sector. She went to work for Little Rock in 2004 as comptroller and became finance director in 2008.

“I was interested in working for the city of Little Rock because I love Little Rock and wanted to contribute my talents to make my city the best it can be,” she said. “The diversity of programs, projects and people that I am able to work with on a daily basis make working for the city very challenging and exciting.”

Lenehan said she deals with daily issues ranging from public safety to zoo operations, from pension funding to city infrastructure, from debt issuance and compliance to grant management. Plus, she gets to dabble in subjects like golf and environmental management.

“In all aspects of my job, the best part is working with people who really care about the quality of life in Little Rock,” she said.

Little Rock employs about 2,400 workers, full and part time. Working for the city provides some unique challenges, Lenehan said, such as competing demands for limited resources in an economic downturn. But she noted it has its unique rewards as well, such as working with the city’s executive team to “promote and pass a sales tax and issue bonds to provide critical infrastructure, capital, economic development and operating funds for the city.”

Lenehan is proudest of a few accomplishments realized during her tenure with the city:

  • Working with the city board, mayor, city manager and staff to maintain a balanced budget during the recession.
  • Maintaining the city’s AA bond rating.
  • Providing documentation and support for the planning and successful promotion of the 1-cent sales tax.
  • Achieving the Government Finance Officers Association Awards for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Distinguished Budget Presentation.

She counts consistency, honesty, integrity and respect as her secrets to success, and Lenehan tries to apply those qualities to the employees she oversees. She plans to work for the city for another 10 years or so before retiring, when she can focus on her volunteer activities, which have included the Little Rock School Board Audit Committee, Christ the King Catholic Church and Boy Scouts.



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