Pat Pitney to head Legislative Finance

Pat Pitney fields questions from reporters at a press conference called by Gov. Bill Walker, Feb. 5, 2015. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The legislature has found a replacement for longtime finance director, David Teal, who retired last month. 

The bipartisan, bicameral Legislative Budget and Audit Committee met on Jan. 24, and announced that they’d hired Juneau resident Pat Pitney.

Pitney will step into the role that Teal held for 22 years.

Rep. Chris Tuck, who chairs the committee, cited Pitney’s extensive experience in state finances in a media release, saying she’d be able to immediately take over for Teal “because she knows the budget process, she knows how the Legislature works and she has the temperament and demeanor to work with people to solve problems.”

Pitney said she’s looking forward to starting her new job and feels well-prepared. 

“I’ve worked with the legislature, you know, pretty much throughout my entire career, starting with the university,” she said. “So it’s nice to be able to continue to serve during this time in Alaska’s fiscal challenge.”

Pitney was former Gov. Bill Walker’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Before that, she was the point person on the budget for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  

Teal has known Pitney for 20 years and said they’ve worked well together. He said she’s well-positioned to continue on the tradition of avoiding taking sides in policy debates. 

“I don’t think that Pat’s ever been partisan, so I don’t think she’s going to have any big problem,” he said.

Teal said Pitney is coming into the job at a time when lawmakers are grappling with contentious financial issues. 

“I think we all know what the biggest thing is: it’s the dividends versus deficits trade-off, right?” he said.

The finance director doesn’t tell the legislature what to do; rather, they provide lawmakers with nonpartisan information  that they need to make those decisions. 

“I don’t want to say we don’t advise, because I think that we do,” Teal said. “When people ask us about something, our answer is never ‘you should do this.’ It’s, ‘ok here are your options. Here are the pluses and minuses of these options, so make up your mind  — we’re not going to do it for you.’”

Teal left in December, well before Pitney was tapped for the role. But, he said if he’d left a note behind when he walked out of his office for the last time — it would have had this advice: 

“I think that some of [Legislative]Finance’s credibility depended on being able to be in front of a committee and answer whatever is thrown in front of you and you can’t do that without granular detail,” he said.

That’s a challenge that Pitney said she’s ready to tackle.