The city of Portland will soon have a new finance director after Doug Yoeckel announced his retirement after just over eight years in the position.
Portland Mayor Mike Callis informed the board of Aaldermen of Yoeckel’s retirement during its Feb. 1 meeting.
“We so appreciate his service,” Callis said. “We’re so glad that Doug was able to serve the city of Portland, raise us up a level and change how we look at finances.”
Yoeckel’s last day in the office was Feb. 5, but his actual retirement date will be March 12 after accounting for accrued time off over the years.
“I just got so much time built up that I’m going to be off a few days,” Yoeckel said.
Yoeckel, who grew up in Portland and graduated from Portland High, became the city’s finance director in September of 2012. Prior to that, he worked in Nashville and operated his own accounting practice. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Kentucky University in 1980.
“I started out part-time and then became city recorder and finance director ... it’s the way it was then,” Yoeckel said of his start in city government. “At the time, city recorded included finance director.”
Yoeckel said he is retiring in order to spend time with family, including a new granddaughter.
“I’m going to be 63 ... you get to a point where you’re tired,” Yoeckel said. “I told everybody, ‘I don’t want a schedule any more. I want to be flexible.’ I want to devote time to family.”
The position of finance director will be filled by Rachel Slusser, who is coming from Greenbrier and has served as that city’s recorder/treasurer since 2007 and as city administrator since July 2020.
Yoeckel said that Portland is in good financial shape, which makes it easier to walk away.
That improved position has allowed the city to maintain services and complete projects while building the rainy-day fund to more than $3.6 million as of June 2020. When he came into office, that number was approximately $1.5 million.
“When I came in, not all the growth had started,” Yoeckel said. “It was getting things into shape to get the growth going. That’s where the building program came in — building the fire halls and city hall, doing a lot of park improvement stuff.
“The tricky part was how to grow these expenditures, and you’re waiting on the revenue to catch up. We’ve been able to get a lot of things, but we’ve still been able to control costs and revenue flows, so we’ve built up a decent rainy-day fund.”
That fund balance was especially important given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as no one knew how city finances would be affected. In his state of the city address last month, Callis stated that the city was in better financial shape than anyone had anticipated when the pandemic began.
Other projects Yoeckel cited during his tenure were the upgrades of the police department’s fleet and the city’s vehicle fleet.
“We have gotten (the police fleet) in a whole lot better shape,” Yoeckel said. “We’ve utilized state general services and buying used at good pricing, so the cost per year of a vehicle was a lot less.”
Yoeckel also noted an improvement in the city’s bond rating, which reduces borrowing costs. That proved handy recently with a new water/sewer bond.
“We actually got a bond rating increase,” Yoeckel said. “During COVID, that was almost unheard of. The rating agencies felt like what we were doing with our financial situation was in a whole lot better shape.”
Yoeckel credited good leadership over the years and hard work from himself and his staff to improve the city’s financial position.
“The city has a great staff, and it’s great when it’s like that,” Yoeckel said. “I’m feeling blessed and good about what’s been accomplished over the years.”
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory @hartsvillevidette.com.