The Town of Golden operates with a budget in the millions, with funds coming in from taxes, fees and grants, that move through the operational budget throughout multiple departments. And it all has to organized by one woman… Chief Financial Officer Lisa Vass.
Having been called a God-send, even a rockstar around the council chambers, Vass has to take a mass of complicated data and put it into an understandable format for the decision-makers.
This number-whiz wasn’t always headed down this path, however. When she first entered the work force after attending university in Ontario, Vass had a very different career in mind.
“My degree is actually in recreation. I have an aquatics and recreation background,” said Vass, laughing at the drastic difference in career path. “While I was at university if you said I was going to be an accountant I would have said you were off your rocker.”
After university she found herself working as the recreation director at one of the First Nations communities in the Northwest Territories. While there she realized she an affinity for bookkeeping and numbers, and decided to pursue some courses at NAIT in Edmonton. It took six years to get her designation, and when she did she found herself working finance for the City of Calgary in the parks and recreation department.
“This job in Calgary kind of matched my two passions together. So that’s how I ended up in municipal government,” said Vass. “I love the job. I definitely enjoy it more than the recreation end of it.”
After gaining experience in Calgary, Vass found herself taking on a larger role here in Golden. As the Chief Financial Officer, she doesn’t have just one department to budget for, she has all of them.
“It’s a lot different here, you’re looking after the entire organization,” she said. “Coming from Calgary to a community of this size, my skill sets have expanded tremendously because of how in depth I have to be here.”
The role of CFO has traditionally been a more male dominated field, but Vass says she’s happy to see that changing.
“At my level you definitely don’t find as many CFOs who are female. There are actually quite a few in B.C., but traditionally it’s mostly men that rise to this level. But it is changing significantly,” she said.
Vass says this is the first position she has looked at long term, and has very much enjoyed her time in Golden. No one knows what the future holds, but for the time being she has laid down roots here.
Growing up in Ontario with an interest in recreation, Vass couldn’t have imagined this is where she would end up, which she says is a significant thing for young people to keep in mind.
“It’s never too late. I was in my 30s when I started my designation, and it took six years. As long as you like to learn and have an affinity for it, it’s never too late,” she said.
“Municipal government is always going to need people, and having qualified people is important.”