Schooled in the British system of education growing up in Hong Kong, Maurina Lee excelled in mathematics and Calculus I and II didn't exactly strike fear in her heart. Her initial career impulse was to pursue mathematics, but her mother advised against it, and for Lee to choose a "more pragmatic" course instead.Thus, on a scholarship at Pacific Union College, she obtained a bachelor's in business administration, major in accounting. She first found employment with a computer company, where she stayed five-six years. Then it was on to the city of Bellflower, where she worked for eight years and served as senior accountant, gaining valuable hands-on experience in financial reporting and budget preparation. She also mentions gaining expertise in "implementation of process improvements and technology integration." Her next-only her third-stop was here in Downey, when she hired on in April of 2006 as finance manager reporting to finance director John Michicoff, whom she describes as "very nice and very supportive." The environment Lee stepped into suited her skills and temperament just fine. To her delight, she inherited staff who'd been with the city more than ten years "willing and eager" to learn new computer skills. She also realized her penchant for problem-solving (and crunching numbers) found free play. She was to remark later that indeed the people she interacts with on a daily basis and the work environment in the department inspire respect and are very conducive to performing productive work. "Everyone's just like family," she says. She was still with the city of Bellflower, she says, when she got interested in the mechanics of community development. This curiosity continued with her move to Downey, culminating in her getting her masters in public administration last August from USC. Now, she says, in her job she finds herself enjoying a direct, more comprehensive, and fulfilling, role in local government. She sees now how development of an area and more equitable resource allocation can be effected for the good of the community. In the city's scheme of things, the finance department is charged with safeguarding the city's assets and, by managing the city's fiscal affairs, keeps its focus on "serving the financial needs of Downey's citizenry, (city) management, and employees" through the following centralized functions: accounting, auditing, business registration, animal licenses, water customer service, city-operated ambulance collections, treasury, purchasing, information technology, as well as the filing of numerous regulatory annual reports." To support said activities, such routine departmental transactions as cashiering, revenue collections (sales, use, property, utility users, etc., taxes), accounts receivable, accounts payable, business registration, ambulance billing, etc., are fed into a computer and, instantly, because of the integrated system in place, provides "more meaningful information" (e.g., depreciation on fixed assets, etc.) to management in an "organized and timely manner." Lee's major responsibility areas embrace accounting and revenue collections. Information technology and purchasing, the two other major finance functional areas, are handled by associates. The purchasing manager's position is currently vacant. The department does the bookkeeping meanwhile for the Community Development Commission, SEAACA, and the Downey Cemetery District. Lee says the use of functional modules makes it possible to separately keep track of data on inventory, payroll, utility, purchasing, and such. Sought-for data is available "at one's fingertips." Preparation of financial reports and budgets, which before took weeks, months to do, has been made easier to prepare, more accessible for analysis (for better internal controls, data reconciliation, etc.), and otherwise able to provide more precise and useful information. In this kind of setting, there is room for more creativity in looking for better ways to achieve a "smoother, more efficient, more prioritized" information flow. Last summer, Lee was able to visit mainland China (Beijing, Shanghai, etc.) for the first time in her life, and the experience made a vivid impression on her. Naturally curious, possessed with an analytical mind, along with an infectious smile, she strikes one as attuned to global trends and issues. She and her husband (who works for the county of Los Angeles) have two boys who are in middle school. They reside in Fullerton with her mom. She's very aware of Lee Powell's impending retirement, and Michicoff's added assignments/responsibilities as a result. The full ramifications of this development are not determined as yet. Suffice to say that Michicoff continues to relish the national recognition for the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report prepared by the department. (The current one is nearing completion and should be ready by next month). As important city developments materialize one by one, it's safe to say Maurina Lee will be an integral, active part of what promises to be a vibrant future.
********** Published: November 13, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 30