FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For Dave Gruen, numbers come easily.
As Forsyth County’s Chief Financial Officer, Gruen is not new to running a government’s finances. He came to Forsyth almost six years ago after working in the same field in Florida for 20 years and later 10 years at a nonprofit private college.
“I always pictured my role as supporting the organization and helping people get their job done, so it’s not just what I’m doing from my position,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help the organization reach its goals. It’s just always been from the financial end.”
For just about any endeavor the county has, money touches it, Gruen said.
“A lot of people don’t want to deal with the numbers, so there are those of us in this profession that work with finances and accounting,” he said.
Gruen said he always liked numbers growing up, even collecting coins as a hobby, so it was only natural he ended up working with finances as an adult.
After earning a degree in Bible theology and spending a short term in ministry, he eventually went back and got an accounting degree.
One thing about numbers is they have to work, he said, which intrigues him.
“There’s a lot of judgement as far as finances and how and what you do. But in producing finance reports and so on, the numbers have to balance and work,” Gruen said. “In some other professions it’s whatever argument you can make. That’s a neat thing, too. But I’ve always liked the fact the numbers have to balance and there’s a right answer. Sometimes it’s tough to get there, but it’s a challenge.”
Another challenge he takes on is supporting multiple departments in the county. As CFO he is responsible for overseeing departments including Information Systems and Technology, Indigent Defense and Support Services, which oversees Finance, Procurement and Risk Management.
He said his work is mainly project orientated so he works on reports, funding, debt management and investments.
“On any given day I may work in a different area,” Gruen said. “They’re somewhat related in a way. We provide the offices what they need so they can serve the public. Every day can be different.”
And of his nearly six years with Forsyth assisting the various departments, he said some of his most memorable moments have been working on the funding and bond issues for the county’s Board of Commissioners.
He helped refinance the county’s bonds and helped save Forsyth millions of dollars.
“Those moments are important where you feel like you’re part of a team that’s accomplishing things for the county,” Gruen said.
He also said he enjoys being able to see and use projects he helped finance, including when the public approved the $200 million transportation bond in 2014. His department helped put together a plan and scheduled the property taxes paying back the borrowed money.
“When I see the services delivered, it stands out to me that I was part of that effort to get the money in place to be able to pay for that to happen,” he said.
He also enjoys working in local government because it’s the closest to the people.
“Anyone from the public can come in and see anything,” Gruen said. “I talk to folks. To me, local government actually produces goods and services that people see. When they use the parks, Greenway, library or see a public safety car, that’s what we do. All those folks have to be paid and we have to buy those fire trucks and equipment.”
With all that responsibility, Gruen said he and his staff try to be accountable for the public.
“We are straightforward, which is the way it should be under state law,” Gruen said. “We are well aware it is public funds and have a fiduciary responsibility to handle those appropriately and as the public expects. We review our budget throughout the year and how the spending is going. I think we spend the local tax dollars very responsibly. We are paying for the services the people get to enjoy in Forsyth County. We are providing these services as best we can financially for the public dollar.”