by Max Marbut
The City got a veteran financial professional to oversee its revenues and expenditures when Kent Olson’s appointment to the post of budget officer was approved unanimously by the City Council Feb. 13.
He earned his undergraduate degree in economics and finance from Millekin University and a masters degree in public administration from Syracuse University.
After spending several years working his way up through the ranks of municipal finance administration in the suburbs of Chicago, Olson decided he’d had enough of the northern climate so he and his family headed for the Sunshine State.
“I can remember days in July when the high temperature would be in the 60s – not to mention the snow and ice in the winter,” he said of life in Illinois.
In 1993, Olson became the finance director in Palm Beach Gardens, then moved to Orlando, where he served as the city’s treasurer until he came to Jacksonville.
Olson said after living in Florida for 14 years, “I guess I have achieved near-native status.”
In addition to the differences between a conventional city government and a consolidated government, a budget officer has more responsibilities than a treasurer.
“A treasurer mainly takes cash and invests it. A treasurer also handles the issuance of debt. I’ve never had to deal with a city and county together before in my career. There is more to keep track of here like revenues and expenditures and making sure all the accounts are balanced. They are two separate jobs, but it’s all within the broad category of finance.
“The basic core functions are the same. It’s very similar – just more zeros,” said Olson.
When asked what he thinks will be the biggest financial challenge facing the City in the next few years, Olson said, “That will depend on what the legislature does this session. Property tax is what the state has given us as our primary revenue source. Cutting into that could make it difficult.”
Olson is married and has two children, a son who is attending the University of Central Florida and a daughter who is in the eighth grade. His wife, DeeDee, who teaches fourth grade in Orlando, and daughter won’t join him in Jacksonville until the school year is over. While he admitted owning a set of clubs, Olson said golf isn’t really his game, but he’s usually up for a tennis match.