Search for D.C.’s next CFO takes shape

Rivlin says the search committee’s aim is to get recommendations to the mayor “as fast as possible.” (The Washington Post) Rivlin says the search committee’s aim is to get recommendations to the mayor “as fast as possible.” (The Washington Post)

A search committee tapped by Mayor Vincent C. Gray to identify the city’s next chief financial officer is preparing to interview at least a half-dozen potential candidates, the co-leader of the effort said Wednesday.

Alice M. Rivlin, the Brookings Institution fellow and former presidential budget director, said “six to eight” candidates are under consideration as the process moves to the interview stage. Rivlin and former mayor Anthony A. Williams are leading the blue-ribbon search committee, which will make recommendations to Gray, who will then select a nominee for D.C. Council confirmation.

Rivlin said those in the running to become the city’s fourth CFO since the office was created in 1997 include candidates with both private and public-sector experience.

Meanwhile, it appears the search team is attempting to make the job more desirable to the candidates. The D.C. Council on Wednesday will take up a bill authorizing a salary of up to $250,000 for the new CFO. That’s a 20 percent raise over the earnings of current CFO Natwar M. Gandhi, who will be retiring once his replacement is confirmed.

In a memorandum to colleagues and staff, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said city personnel officials reviewed the compensation for CFOs in comparable cities and determined the D.C. salary “lags behind.” The search committee, he added, “has identified an issue with attracting qualified candidates at the current salary.”

“This is a very big job,” Rivlin explained. “It’s really bigger than any comparable size city because we are city and a state. In order to get someone with the skills and talents we need … we realized we’d have to be able to offer somebody a little more that the current salary.”

That said, she added, “It doesn’t necessarily mean we’d go to two-fifty.”

Increasing the salary, however, will ultimately require congressional action to amend the city charter.

As for the timeline for the remainder of the search, Rivlin declined to give a specific target date. “As soon as possible, because Dr. Gandhi is eager to get out,” she said.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · July 8, 2013