Fellowship Openings

Attracting and Retaining Finance Talent to Improve City Operations

Project: Attracting and Retaining Finance Talent to Improve City Operations

Agency: LA Office of Finance

Location: Los Angeles, CA


Demographic and economic trends in the City of Los Angeles have left the Office of Finance (Finance) understaffed and challenged to meet the financial needs of the second most populous city in the country. With nearly a third of workers within two years of retirement age and an improved economy that has resulted in fewer job applicants for civic positions, the department is having difficulty with fully staffing its 300 plus person organization. “All roads lead to finance” so to speak, and the city’s annual budget provides a blueprint of the inner workings and priorities of the city. Additionally, Finance  is responsible for contributing nearly $4 billion annually to the city’s general fund through various tax categories, and remains central to operations across the city organization.

Over the years, Finance  has tried a number of recruitment strategies to fill vacancies (the majority of which are are subject to Civil Service examination requirements), including recruiting directly from local colleges and universities as well as offering a qualifying exam to citywide  employees and outside candidates on a continuous basis. Neither strategy completely addresses the dual needs of getting qualified and experienced candidates through the door, and retaining the best talent within the department. The City of Los Angeles as a whole is seeing high rates of retirement, and as positions open up across the city’s various departments, some of the best talent in Finance  is often promoted up and out of the department. The persistent vacancies are costly for the department and impact the organization’s ability to provide a consistent level of services, particularly in external facing, customer service type roles.

Finance  is seeking new strategies for recruitment and retention not only to bring in the most well-suited and qualified employees, but also to build a pipeline of leaders within the department who feel a sense of stewardship over the city’s finances and the city itself. One goal of Finance  is to initiate a leadership training academy for employees that have been promoted or hope to promote to leadership roles but still require skills development and mentorship to develop them into high performing managers (within the Office of Finance). Finance desires the creation of a plan framework for this leadership academy. To support this work, Finance  will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will oversee the development of an overarching recruitment and retention strategy for the department.


The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in October 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will begin his or her work with a ‘listening tour’ across the various divisions  of the Office of Finance and the City’s Personnel Department, in order to fully understand the factors contributing to issues of recruitment and retention as highlighted above.  Coupled with exit interviews, data analysis and research on national best practices, the fellow should work closely with department stakeholders to develop a strategy and recommendations for how to achieve goals around recruitment and retention, with a focus on the Audit and Customer Support divisions of Finance, in particular.

In order to be effective in this role, the FUSE Fellow must be adept in managing culture change and implementing creative fixes while navigating a highly bureaucratic environment. Success will be demonstrated by the development of solutions-oriented vision for the department’s recruitment and retention strategy that has the buy-in of internal stakeholders, and can be implemented within the confines of the city’s charter and existing regulations, including relevant MOUs and Civil Service provisions

  • Complete Listening Tour and Landscape Assessment: Complete assessment of current trends in department-wide hiring, retention, promotions, and staff turnover. Identify opportunities to refine and improve existing personnel processes.
  • Develop Recruitment Strategy & Recommendations: Create a comprehensive strategy for department-wide recruitment and retention. Identify best practices, and create achievable metrics and articulate expected outcomes, so that department can measure progress. Develop cost estimates and implementation timelines for recommendations.
  • Support Creation of Department-wide Leadership Academy: Work closely with department leadership team to understand what skills development is required for newly promoted staff, or staff eligible to promote. Identify existing resources, mentorship and training opportunities that can be incorporated into Academy curriculum.
  • Begin Strategic Implementation: Work closely with project supervisors to pilot implementation of select recommendations. Maximize impact by prioritizing initiatives with quick returns.


  • Claire Bartels, Director of Finance and City Treasurer, Los Angeles Office of Finance
  • Nicole Bernson, Assistant Director of Finance, Los Angeles Office of Finance
  • Carl Sampson, Assistant Director of Finance, Los Angeles Office of Finance
  • Elba Pallais, Personnel Director, Los Angeles Office of Finance


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in human resource management or human capital planning.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Understands the need for solutions to recruiting and retaining all people in a community, being proactively and purposefully inclusive to all races, religions, genders/gender identities, immigration statuses, ethnicities, ages  and sexual preferences.