Anthony Williams and Alice Rivlin will lead CFO search

February 19, 2013

The CFO search is the second high-profile assignment handed to Williams by his successor. (Michael S. Williamson — The Washington Post)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray has turned to a pair of reliable allies to lead the national search for the District’s next chief financial officer: Former mayor Anthony A. Williams and ex-presidential budget director Alice Rivlin.

Gray announced Tuesday that Williams and Rivlin will head the panel charged with finding a “distinguished and qualified” successor for Natwar M. Gandhi, who is stepping down on June 1 after more than 13 years at the city’s fiscal helm.

“Besides being unquestioned experts in the area of the District’s finances, both have also demonstrated extraordinary dedication over the years to ensuring that our city is in good fiscal health so that we may serve our residents in the most effective manner possible,” Gray said in a statement.

More search panel members will be named in the coming days, Gray said.

While Williams was not a supporter of Gray’s 2010 campaign, this will be the second major task he has agreed to take on for his most recent successor. Williams, now the CEO of the Federal City Council, also chairs the Tax Revision Commission, which is expected to make recommendations later this year on overhauling the city’s taxation structure.

Rivlin, who ran the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton and is now a Brookings Institution scholar, was a high-profile supporter of Gray’s in 2010. Her familiarity with the city’s finances is all but unquestioned, given her time chairing the federal control board for its final three years and her subsequent research into D.C. fiscal issues at Brookings.

One controversial issue the search panel may have to tackle is the CFO’s independence. Gray told Washington Post reporters and editors earlier this month that he believes there should be a discussion of revisiting the current structure, which gives the CFO great power to make revenue and expenditure estimates without financial interference.

“One of the questions that should be asked is, how do the candidates feel about this essentially being outside of the government?” Gray said.

But the search panel’s leadership indicates that that may have been little more than the floating of a trial balloon. It is unlikely that Williams, who served as the first independent CFO, and Rivlin, a former control board chair, would be vocal advocates for significantly changing the current structure.

Neither were immediately available for an interview Tuesday.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · February 19, 2013