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Susan Lerch Joins Portsmouth's Finance Department

The town has a new Deputy Finance Director.

Susan Lerch via LinkedIn
Susan Lerch via LinkedIn
Town Administrator John C. Klimm has steadily been putting forward a plan of action to strengthen Portsmouth's finances as the town faces a host of challenges — including large pension liabilities and complex government accounting requirements.

With the hiring of Susan Lerch, Klimm told the Town Council on Monday night that with their support, the town has taken another step towards the goal of taking the "next step in financial management."

"I cannot say enough of my gratitude to you for supporting the position," Klimm said. "We are significantly increasing our financial capacity and it will serve us well over the next year or two."

Lerch brings both public and private accounting and budgeting experience to the table and comes to Portsmouth from her prior position as a senior auditor for Defense Contract Audit Agency in Groton, Conn., where she was the lead auditor overseeing planning, performance, budgets and projections. 

Before that, Lerch worked in the private sector at Damiano, Burk & Nuttall, a Providence-based accounting firm; Memorial Hospital, KPMG Peat Marwick and has been an instructor at the graduate level since 1989.

She holds a masters of science in accounting and a bachelors degree in business administration in addition to being a certified public accountant. 

Lerch starts Monday and will earn a salary of $63,022, which is less than the $64,282 the previous deputy finance director was scheduled to earn, according to a Town Council memo.

Lerch's hire ends a period of difficulty finding the right person to fill the position.

The last time the position was advertised was in October and the town used traditional newspaper advertisements. They spent "hundreds of dollars," Klimm said in the memo, and they got only eight applicants.

This time, they "explored alternative methods to reaching potential candidates" and posted to various Web sites including the Rhode Island Governmental Finance Officers Association, the RI Society of CPAs, the University of Rhode Island Alumni Career Center and others.

They also used the electronic job search Web site Indeed.com, which cost $50. Every other posting was free.

Twenty-six candidates applied, resulting in nine interviews. 

With Lerch joining the team, the Town's Finanace Department will have more resources to upgrade its audit to a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, meet GFOA guidelines and improve the analysis of accounts and processes "that allow town leaders to increase their knowledge about the makeup and details of both cost and revenues," Klimm said. "Data will drive decisions."

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