Ojai's top administrator has been selected for the county's newly created post of chief financial officer.
Andrew Belknap, Ojai's city manager the past 11 years and the city's public works director for the previous three, will take on the $107,000-a-year post beginning in February.
"He's got an excellent economic background and a good financial mind," said county Chief Administrative Officer Harry Hufford, who offered Belknap the job Thursday. "That was the first thing I was looking for. Then add 10 years of experience as a manager on top of that and he's got the perfect background for this job."
Hufford, the county's interim chief administrator, asked for the Board of Supervisors' approval earlier this year to create the position to bring the county's fiscal forecasting duties under the control of his office.
For years, the county auditor has handled such duties, which Hufford suggested was a mistake, because, he said, it detracts from that office's main duty of auditing the county's $1.07-billion budget.
Hufford has also maintained revenue forecasting is a responsibility that other counties routinely give to the chief administrative officer.
"It more appropriately belongs in the CAO's office because the board then has the ability to hold the CAO accountable for both the revenues and the expenditures," he said.
Belknap said he looks forward to establishing the position, and said he knows it may mean a few battles with the auditor's office as shifts in responsibilities are hammered out.
"I'm taking on a job I know will be a challenge and will be difficult," Belknap said. "But it's one I know I can do a good job with too."
Belknap said he has already informed Ojai council members of his pending departure.
Ojai Councilwoman Sue Horgan said she was sorry to see Belknap leave. She called him an excellent city manager with a strong commitment to fiscal conservatism. Horgan said Belknap's commitment to managing finances responsibly is reflected in the financial strength of the city of nearly 8,300 residents.
"As council members, we have never been surprised by anything because he takes such a proactive approach to managing the city and has already briefed us before an issue comes up," Horgan said. "We are very sad to see him leave Ojai. The county is very fortunate to be getting him. I have no doubt we will all be well-served with Andy Belknap in the county."
Belknap, who is married with a teenage son and daughter, has a master's degree in economics from UC Santa Barbara. He was a senior management analyst for Oxnard from 1980 to 1986 before moving to Ojai in 1987 to become public works director.