Mayor, councilors agree on choice of Doerflinger
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
9/14/10 at 5:46 AM
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Mayor Dewey Bartlett and city councilors at least agree on one thing - City Auditor Preston Doerflinger is the right person to lead the city's evaluation of a new efficiency report.
Doerflinger was asked by Bartlett to head the city's newly formed Management Review Office, which will vet the 1,100 recommendations contained in KPMG's study of Tulsa's government.
Council Chairman Rick Westcott said that, given the volatile relationship between the council and mayor, Bartlett doesn't have the political capital to shepherd the process.
"Based on Mayor Bartlett's conduct of the last few months, I am very glad he is not leading this effort," Westcott said.
"In order for this to be effective, I think it's best that someone who is viewed as neutral by all parties be at the forefront."
Doerflinger was really an unknown before last fall's elections, Westcott said, but since then has proven himself to be "fair and reasonable." Other councilors have echoed similar sentiments.
"Preston is not just the right one," Westcott said, "he might be the only one in City Hall right now who can successfully lead this effort."
Bartlett said he is certain that Doerflinger will not make decisions "based on the politics of things."
Doerflinger's involvement should also make the council more receptive to proposals contained in the report, he said.
"He hasn't been embroiled in any controversies and, for the most part, has been kept out of things," Bartlett said.
But Bartlett said Doerflinger's business background is the main reason he asked the auditor to lead this effort.
"I think this fits his skill set very well," the mayor said.
Doerflinger, 38, a Republican, was sworn in as city auditor last December after prevailing in an election battle against Phil Wood, who had held the position since 1988.
It was Doerflinger's first foray into politics.
Self-employed for the 13 years prior, he owns PLD Management and has interest in several health-care related businesses, from pharmacies to medical equipment. He is also a registered respiratory therapist.
Since he became auditor, which is a full-time position, he is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of his businesses.
"When I chose to run for this role, we put the infrastructure in place so that my focus could be on what I need to do here," he said.
Doerflinger has a respiratory therapy degree from Tulsa Community College and a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership from Southern Nazarene University.
Due to a City Charter amendment that will go into effect with the 2011 election, the city auditor will either have to be a certified public accountant or a certified internal auditor.
Doerflinger is in the process of becoming a certified internal auditor and will take the necessary tests in the next few months so he can run again for the post next year.
The work involved with the KPMG report will take a minimum of 18 to 24 months, Doerflinger said, and he wants to be in office to see it through.
"I believe this is really a way to affect the long-term stability of our city," he said. "Our revenues are out of line with our services and there has to be some realignment of that for us to prosper."
Heading up the Management Review Office, which will be made up of city staffers, is in line with Doerflinger's background of project management.
"It's what I'm used to doing," he said. "It's like the old saying, 'How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.' That's how I'm trying to approach this. If you just look at this on a macro level, it can be overwhelming, but you have to break it down one piece at a time."
Doerflinger said it will be his role to guide the process but that it will be up to the mayor and the council to make the decisions about which recommendations to implement.
As for being considered Switzerland between the warring mayor and councilors, Doerflinger said he's proud to be of service.
"I think I have good relationships with the councilors and the mayor," he said. "I do think (the auditor) is considered independent by nature, and hopefully I've contributed to that with how I've handled myself."
Brian Barber 581-8322
Auditor Preston Doerflinger says the task fits with his project management background. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World