By Tom Travis
Robert Widigan, 31, has joined the City of Flint’s finance department as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Widigan is a Flint native and attended Mott Community College and transferred to the University of Michigan – Flint graduating in 2014 with a concentration in finance.
Currently living in Lansing, Widigan hopes to move into downtown Flint soon. He is not married and has no kids and no pets. He says he has been thinking about getting a dog but added, “I work such long hours in city government it may not be a good idea.”
Widigan says he enjoys golfing and fly-fishing, saying “I’m not good at either but love to do them.” He enjoys winter hiking and is looking forward to going to the downtown Flint restaurants and getting a great burger at The Torch.
Widigan’s parents live 15 minutes west of Flint and he has two aunts who live near the College-Cultural area.
In a Zoom interview with EVM, Widigan said the city of Flint sought him out for the CFO position. “When your hometown calls, you go,” he said.
Widigan started earlier this week and is currently serving as interim CFO. His appointment will go before the full City Council for its consent as outlined in the Flint City Charter. Widigan will earn $135,000 as Flint’s CFO, former CFO Frayer earned $148,000.
“Be honest and transparent” – Widigan’s plan in working with city council
EVM asked Widigan about his thoughts of working with the city council given their past tumultuous and chaotic record of meetings. He responded, “it’s important to tackle each piece of the finances one piece at a time, take your time, be patient, honest and transparent.”
Widigan’s first council meeting was last Wednesday’s nine-and-a-half hour marathon. He commented that he was “very tired” after the meeting.
Widigan brings “a wealth of knowledge” – Mayor Neeley
An experienced finance professional in local and state municipalities, Widigan previously served in key leadership roles with the City of Lansing, State of Michigan, and multiple counties in Michigan.
“We are pleased to welcome Robert back home and accept this role as we complete a successful transition period after Shelbi Frayer’s departure. His critical review of financial and operational management will keep the City of Flint in a strong financial position,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said.
“His wealth of knowledge will keep our commitment to making the City’s finances a priority as we continue to move forward in a positive direction,” according to a press release issued by the city.
Before joining the City of Flint team, Widigan served the City of Lansing as finance director. In that role, he managed the Finance Department, oversaw short-term and long-term fiscal planning and operations of the City, prepared revenue projections and debt service requirements, evaluated department operations, along with other tasks related to the City’s financial health, according to the press release.
Widigan also previously served at the Michigan Department of Treasury in the Bureau of Local Government and School Services as an analyst. His responsibilities included analyzing trends, compiling local government data, and preparing reports for long-range strategic planning and recommendations for state support directly to local governments.
Widigan’s previous work also included community relations and helping to develop and sustain diverse communities throughout Michigan, according to the press release.
Widigan replaces Shelbi Frayer, the city’s former CFO, who left last month after only six months. Frayer worked with Widigan in the State of Michigan finance offices. Widigan said that while their career paths have crossed he and Frayer never worked directly with each other. He added he does not know what position Frayer moved on to.
Status of $94 million federal COVID stimulus American Rescue Plan funds
One large element of city finance that will be on Widigan’s desk as he begins is how the city deals with its expected influx of COVD relief funds. It was announced earlier this year that Flint would receive $94 million in federal relief funds through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Flint has received the first installment from that stimulus. The Flint City Council passed a resolution to accept the funds, but the resolution requires that the city wait until the final regulations on spending that money is released by the U.S. Treasure Department before the money is spent.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.