Christopher J. Morrill took over as GFOA's executive director on July I, 2017, after 30 years in local government finance and management positions, replacing long-time executive director Jeff Esser. Government Finance Review sat down with Chris to talk about his first months on the job, the experiences he brings to leading the organization, and his thoughts about the future of GFOA.
Q WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE?
A When I was in middle school, my dad chaired the charter commission that changed the form of government in my hometown (Southbridge, Massachusetts) from town meeting/ selectmen to council-manager. My dad then served as chair of the newly formed town council. I had a front row seat to observe the impact that well-run local government can have on people's lives. I studied political science at Holy Cross College, worked as a Main Street manager in Lynn, Massachusetts, and then went to UNC Chapel Hill for a master's in public administration, focusing my coursework on local government management.
Q YOUR CAREER PATH WASN'T EXACTLY TYPICAL.
A Yes, I've had some incredible opportunities to serve. My first job out of grad school was as a budget analyst in Catawba County, North Carolina, and then I moved to Savannah, Georgia, where I would spend the next 20 years of my career, off and on. A few years into my position with the City of Savannah, my wife, Kim, and I came close to buying a house and before we made it final, we asked ourselves: "Is there anything we want to do before we settle down?" And it turned out that both of us had wanted to volunteer in the Peace Corps. Coincidentally, the Soviet Union had just broken up and was looking for volunteers with local government management experience. We were accepted and arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, in November 1992, in the first group of volunteers to enter the Soviet Union.
Peace Corps Ukraine was incredibly difficult--and tremendously rewarding. With the remnants of the Soviet system still present, I experienced what it was like to live in a society where government is designed to control, not serve. I served the deputy mayor in Lviv, a city of 1 million people in western Ukraine. After two years there, working on housing privatization and government reform, nothing seems too hard to take on.
After my Peace Corps service, I was rehired by the City of Savannah, and five years into my second stint there, I was contacted by Research Triangle Institute to serve as a local...