Member Spotlight from May 24, 2018
The course of Kathy Steinert’s life and career has taken a few surprising turns. She is a New Yorker turned Oregonian and she is a finance professional at one of the largest accounting firms in the country turned director of financial services at an Oregon school district.
“My career in accounting and finance began with a ‘Big 8’ accounting firm in New York City, Deloitte Haskins and Sells,” Steinert says. After earning her CPA, Steinert joined the financial reporting team in the corporate headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb. For 12 years she worked in a number of roles: internal audit, pricing and contracting, sales administration, and marketing. After a while, Steinert began to feel restless. “I felt empty and unhappy from what was, for me, unfulfilling work for an organization with too great a focus on shareholder value,” she says.
After spending time outside of the finance industry and relocating to Oregon, Steinert was ready to move back into finance, but jobs were scarce in Central Oregon, where the economy was hit hard by the housing bubble burst. Steinert was hired as a budget analyst with the Redmond School District. A career in school business was not something that Steinert had previously considered but she immediately found the switch to the public sector to be rewarding. “I feel honored to be able to use my skills and energy to support the students of our community and the teachers, principals and other team members doing the hard work of being constantly prepared and present for these students,” she says.
Located in the geographic heart of Central Oregon, Redmond School District serves approximately 7,500 students. The district has one early learning center (pre-K and kindergarten), five elementary schools, two K-8 community schools, two 6-8 middle schools, two 9-12 comprehensive high schools and one charter school.
Since joining Redmond School District in 2009, Steinert has served in several roles: budget analyst, assistant business manager, and her current role as director of fiscal services.
Lack of funding was one of the biggest challenges Steinert faced in her move to the public sector. “I weathered several years of declining or stagnant revenues early in my career with the district and learned that it is critical to have a strategic plan and develop a budget that focuses resources on strategic priorities,” she says. “That can only be accomplished by involving a broad team of district stakeholders in the financial planning and budgeting process, especially employee associations.”
Steinert also believes that funding challenges can be overcome through transparency. “In my experience, when you share confidently and consistently, you develop trust and respect and groups that could be adversaries or naysayers become a willing participation in finding a solution,” said Steinert.
Steinert is a big believer in involvement in ASBO International on both the national and local levels. “Through robust professional development and access to seasoned school business officials, I have grown as both a professional and as a leader.”
At this juncture, Steinert has no desire to go back to corporate finance or city living. “I loved the fast pace and constant stimulation of New York City in my youth, but truly relish quiet times by the high lakes of the Cascades now. Camping, hiking, walking the dog, I’m truly grateful for the space and mountain vistas.”