New deputy controller to begin today


Recorder News Staff

The city of Amsterdam's new deputy controller will start today.

David Mitchell, of Troy, was offered the position a couple of weeks back and accepted.

City officials were waiting for logistics to clear before officially making the announcement.

Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said last week that Mitchell is coming in with "vast experience."

"He has experience with accounting and financial software," she said. "We're hoping that it's a very positive transition."

In a phone call Wednesday evening, Mitchell said the interview process with the mayor and Common Council went "very well," and said he is looking forward to beginning.

"I'm looking at it possibly being a challenge, but I'm not sure yet," Mitchell said.

He said he will understand more about it once he meets with other city officials.

Mitchell will start at 10 a.m. today, taking the earlier part of his first day in the new post to meet with employees of the city's Department of Finance, the mayor said in a text message Wednesday, adding that he will be utilizing the later hours of the day to familiarize himself with the system.

Friday he will be introduced to department heads.

"Next week, I and key members of the staff will meet with him to discuss specific issues, concerns, deadlines and goals," Thane said. "We will lay out a strategic plan to tackle reconciliation of bank statements and the general ledger, the single audit and annual update document, the State audit, debt reconciliation, and departmental tasks."

Thane continued that the budget has been substantially completed, with the help of city Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis, and will be submitted to the Common Council on time for March 1.

Mitchell comes to Amsterdam with various controller positions under his belt.

On Wednesday, he said one of those was as a senior management controls analyst for Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, where he had about six divisions and more than $600 million dollars reporting to him.

He said he has also helped stabilize various companies that have been in bankruptcy.

While two council members could not be reached on Wednesday, the three that could be reached were happy to find that the office -- which has been struggling without a controller since the end of December -- would once again have someone in a top position.

Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero said he admired Mitchell during the interview the council had with him a few weeks back.

"I think he was the right man for the job according to the qualifications," Leggiero said. "Of course, it's like any other job: When you come in right off the street, there probably are a few things that he may not be up on, but I'm sure he's going to learn in a hurry."

Third Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi said Wednesday that she remembered the interview with Mitchell very well and he came across as "highly competent," adding that he seemed to have dealt with challenging situations in the past.

"I have confidence in his ability to take the reigns and help the department out and get us on more stable footing," she said.

All throughout the process of finding a deputy controller, and throughout the term of the late city controller Ronald Wierzbicki, some council members pushed forward the need for municipal accounting experience to accompany whoever sat at the helm -- or near the helm -- of the department.

And while council members said that Mitchell does not hold that municipal accounting experience, they were satisfied with the decision to place him in the position.

"We had interviewed just two people. ... When we got to the interviews, they were both very highly qualified in accounting," said First Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel. "I did question the fact that neither one had municipal experience."

Isabel said this was something that was thrown in the face of Wierzbicki while he was in office, but neither of the candidates had it.

"I was not happy with that, but I guess their qualifications are excellent," Isabel said. "The gentleman seems very, very knowledgeable in accounting and seems very, very knowledgeable in dealing with companies and people, and I hope that he can pick up the municipal part of that as quickly as we need him to."

Leggiero said it was a concern, but Mitchell does have the knowledge in computer systems and accounting and is "more than capable" of picking up the knowledge.

"At this point in time, I would say it's an excellent time for this person to be stepping into the position."

DeRossi said that while it would have been ideal to have someone in with municipal experience, he was the most qualified.

"It was pretty clear that he had a good understanding of what our needs are and what he'd be dealing with," she said. "I feel confident in his abilities."