Lafayette Consolidated Government has some big shoes to fill. Chief Financial Officer Becky Fontenot Lalumia, the budgetista who has kept a keen watch over taxpayers' finances at City Hall over the past three decades, is planning to retire next year. Known for her hard work and dedication, Lalumia spent the past 32 years with local government, working through eight administrations and four mayors. She began as an entry level accountant with city government in 1977 (after graduating with a near-perfect 3.96 GPA in accounting from USL), working her way up through the ranks and taking over management of consolidated government's finance department in 1998.
"Little does she know but we've already got a plan on locking her doors and not letting her leave," jokes City-Parish President Joey Durel. On a serious note, Durel says, "Her position to me is perhaps the single most difficult to replace in all of government, especially when you take into account her years of experience. Unlike a lot of more administerial positions, she is very, very hands on."
At City Hall, Lalumia's legacy includes helping modernize and improve city-parish government's accounting protocol. Over the past several years, Lalumia also helped direct the refinancing of city-parish bonds that have resulted in millions in public savings. Lalumia has also been active with several local community service organizations, having served on the boards of directors for Volunteer Instructors Teaching Adults and United Way of Acadiana. In 2005, she was one of Acadiana Business' Women Who Mean Business honorees.
"She's irreplaceable," adds LCG Chief Operating Officer Dee Stanley. "The old saying is that nobody is indispensable, and that certainly is correct in that government will continue but to lose someone that has her institutional knowledge... there is no succession plan that replaces that knowledge in one hire."
The plan now being put to the council is to bring on a new executive in the finance department to work with Lalumia over the next year in preparation for taking over in November 2010. The council will vote on whether to approve that plan with final budget adoption at the end of the month.The Durel administration has already identified the person it would like to bring in to succeed Lalumia. Not wanting to release the name before it is official, Stanley would only say that the person already has an inner knowledge of LCG's finances from having worked on audits of city government for the past 20 years.
For her part, 57-year-old Lalumia says she has no immediate plans for her retirement, other than taking some well-earned time off. Durel is hopeful Lalumia will still, post-retirement, assist on a more limited basis with city-parish finances. "She obviously loves what she does," Durel says. "So we're hoping that she'll stick around at least for a few more years, part-time, to continue to work with the [finance] department."