Santa Fe resident named new finance department director
Aug. 20—After a nearly four-month search for a new chief financial officer, the city of Santa Fe announced Friday that it has hired Emily Oster to fill the vacancy.
The 40-year-old Santa Fe resident, who most recently worked as an assistant secretary for the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue, will assume the role Sept. 6. She said she was delighted to lead a department undergoing a complete overhaul. , which aims to bring the agency into the 21st century and curb a series of late audits that have garnered increased attention from the Office of the State Auditor.
Oster will receive $139,000 per year as an at-will employee.
“Having the community I’ve lived in for most of my adult life have a problem that I think I can help solve, it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Oster said in an interview on Friday. . “It appeals to me because I believe in public service and using my professional skills to help the community.”
Oster will succeed Mary McCoy, who left her post in late April just days after State Auditor Brian Colón announced plans to become more involved in city finances. It is unclear whether McCoy resigned or was fired.
The city had failed for the third year in a row to submit its state-mandated audit by December 15.
Oster will oversee all operations of the finance department, including developing and overseeing the city’s more than $340 million budget and tax reporting responsibilities.
She was approached about the vacancy by a friend who worked at the city and encouraged her to apply, she said.
“I started thinking about where I was professionally and thought it would be a great opportunity to serve the community with something that matches my skill set well,” she said.
Oster earned her master’s degree in accounting from the University of New Mexico in 2009 and earned her chartered accountant license in 2010. Eight years later, she earned a license as a purchasing manager.
Prior to serving as Assistant Secretary of State Taxation and Revenue, she worked as Chief Financial Officer of the New Mexico Legal Offices of the Public Defender and as Chief Financial Officer and Director of Compliance and Control quality at the state auditor’s office.
Oster was responsible for updating quality control procedures and quality control reviews for Office of the State Auditor audits.
She also worked in the Department of State Finance and Administration, where she said she set up an internal unit to resolve a cash reconciliation issue.
City manager John Blair, who was hired in January, said Oster’s background made her an attractive candidate during the hiring process.
“Really, I think I’m absolutely confident that this finance department will be considerably stronger any time Emily wants to leave – 25 years from now,” he said with a laugh.
Deputy Chief Financial Officer Alexis Lotero has led the department on an interim basis since McCoy’s departure, with Chief Accounting Officer Ricky Bejarano taking on the role of Deputy Chief Financial Officer.
Bejarano has attended city council meetings over the past few months to offer bi-weekly updates on the progress of the audits. The one for the 2021 financial year has not yet been submitted to the State, while the audit for 2022 is due on December 15.
Bringing the audit process into compliance will be one of Oster’s first tasks, she said.
“First and foremost, I think we need to catch up on audits,” Oster said. “We need to ensure the timeliness of audits and ensure that the 2021 and 2022 audits are returned.”
Over a longer period, Oster said, she will work to modernize the department and continue to recruit more finance staff to fill vacancies, an effort that has become increasingly difficult in recent years across the country.
“We need to install a culture of customer service where we define customers very broadly,” she said. “Everyone from a colleague in the finance department to a citizen are all my clients.”