Crosby settling in as county's new budget director

In this Feb. 27, 2014 file photo, Budget Director Thomas Crosby gives a presentation to the Alachua County Commission.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.

The white walls of his office are mostly bare, with the exception of diplomas and a map.

A picture of his two grandchildren sits proudly next to his computer facing the door. Papers blanket his desk, while some shelves remain empty.

After nearly two months as the director of Alachua County’s Office of Management and Budget, Tommy Crosby says he’s “pretty much moved in.”

“This county is going through a lot of transition in its senior management — a lot of people are retiring,” Crosby said. County staff have “done a good job in helping me out in getting my feet under me.”

Crosby, 48, replaced Growth Management Director Steve Lachnicht, who served as interim budget director after former County Manager Rick Drummond fired Rick Mills from the position. Crosby’s annual salary is $101,000, a $3,000 increase from what he was making in Manatee County, where he was financial director at the time he accepted his new position.

The Starke native received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of North Florida in 1989 and a master’s degree in education from National Louis University in Chicago in 2013.

“I’m a CPA,” Crosby said. “I have worked 20 years in (different areas of operation within school districts) — 13 of those years in finance and accounting — so I have put a lot of governmental budgets together successfully.”

With experience working for the Marion County School Board and the Auditor General’s Office, Crosby said he really enjoys being involved in budget development.

“I like the challenge in looking for innovative ways to deliver services at less cost,” Crosby said. “I’m a numbers guy. I like managing numbers and what they mean.”

Crosby said he is in an evaluation phase and has not been in his current position long enough to determine what kinds of budget reductions might be needed in Alachua County.

“The biggest challenge is to make sure we continue to have a balanced budget as we recover through the economy,” he said.

Crosby said his experience with the Marion County School Board has prepared him to meet budget challenges in his new role.

“I spent my first 12 years in Marion County in finance and accounting, where I developed budgets,” he said. “I initiated applying for the Certificate for Excellence in Financial Reporting in Marion County.”

For six years, Crosby oversaw operational areas for the Marion County School Board, which included school bus transportation, custodial maintenance of facilities, and environmental and energy programs. He reduced costs by identifying more efficient ways to provide services, such as rerouting buses.

“We had to make a lot of budgetary decisions during the worst economy since the Great Depression,” Crosby said. “In my areas of oversight, we reduced operational cost by 20 percent without laying anyone off or cutting their salaries, so that was a pretty big accomplishment.”

County Manager Betty Baker said Crosby is what the county needs, and she has every confidence in his knowledge and skills.

“He brings to us that unique set of experiences that includes operation management and budget management,” Baker said. “He has worked in operations. He was a department director, he managed facilities, and he’s been a budget director. He has unique experience with union contract negotiation, and we have two unions.”

The county was looking for a budget director who is a CPA with years of experience in local budget management, a college degree, and a wealth of experience working in a governmental organization or in an organization similar to that such as a school board, Baker said.

“I interviewed him, and I found him to be that person who could fit into this organization, and he had enough knowledge that he could assume the workload immediately,” Baker said. “The ease in which he articulated budget language and his resume — I was impressed. He saw the need for the budget office to be strategic partners with department directors. He won’t abandon regulation, but he will work with them to come up with amicable, reasonable, logical solutions to manage budgets.”

Baker described Crosby as easy to get along with, adaptable, collaborative and trustworthy.

“I’m just pleased to have him aboard,” Baker said. “He was probably offered more to stay (in Manatee County), and he did not use it to negotiate more money.”

Former superintendent for Marion County Public Schools Jim Yancey said Crosby will do exceptionally well in Alachua County and “people will really enjoy his style.”

“In facilities, they really seemed to enjoy working with him,” said Yancey, who worked with Crosby for about 10 years. “He was demanding, but he demanded exceptional service from everyone. That’s the kind of person he is. He’s bright and motivated. He knows how to talk to people.”

Yancey said he always appreciated Crosby’s honesty and directness.

“He will take directives, and he will bring back innovative solutions,” Yancey said. “He will work as hard and as out-of-the-box as he needs to. He’s very open-minded. He’s going to bring you all the options, even knowing they might be turned down.”

On weekends, Crosby can be spotted driving his 2010 black Camaro. He’s a music trivia buff and enjoys traveling, snow skiing and going to the movies with his wife of nearly 27 years, Cindy.

Crosby said the two main factors in his decision to join the Alachua County Office of Management and Budget were his family and location. His daughter Jessica Williams, 27, and his son Thomas Crosby Jr., 22, both live in Gainesville.

“I grew up in the area, and I’m a big Gator fan,” he said. “I’m a proud parent and grandparent.”

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