Two Santa Barbara County employees involved with finances are vying for the job of auditor-controller to replace Theo Fallati, who is retiring after being appointed to the job in March 2016 following nine years as assistant auditor-controller.
Betsy Schaffer, the current assistant auditor-controller, and Jennifer Christensen, the county’s chief investment officer, are running for the job of ensuring the county’s financial integrity, maintaining the accounting and reporting system and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of all county departments.
As the county’s chief investment officer, Jennifer Christensen manages a $1.6 billion investment portfolio for the county as well as public schools and special districts.
A resident of Santa Barbara, she earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from UCLA and a master of business administration degree, with an emphasis on finance, and a juris doctorate, with an emphasis on business law, from USC.
She is a certified public finance officer and a certified fixed income professional.
Christensen joined the county staff as a municipal finance attorney in the County Counsel’s Office, providing legal support to the Board of Supervisors and most county departments, including the Auditor-Controller’s and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor’s offices.
She was the attorney for the Auditor-Controller’s Office for five years and a division chief for that office for another six years, overseeing a $1 billion county budget, financial reporting and financial accounting.
She also managed land-use and housing projects for the county and serves as an alternate member of the Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System board.
“I want to create a county government that protects its taxpayers, works for its families and makes decisions to benefit those it represents,” Christensen said of her reason for running.
She also said she is committed to building and safeguarding reserves, supporting economic vitality and protecting the environment, natural resources and social safety net.
“I know what it takes to make our government more accountable, efficient, and disciplined,” she said. “I will ensure that our children, grandchildren and their children after them have the tools for success and the ability to succeed – and not the legacy of debt that we are leaving them now.”
Christensen has been endorsed by supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino as well as Harry Hagen, the current treasurer-tax collector-public administrator, and Bernice James, who formerly held that office.
As the assistant auditor-controller, Betsy Schaffer has overseen the operation of the Financial Applications & System, Financial Reporting, Property Tax, Payroll and Financial Accounting & Customer Support divisions.
She holds an associate of arts degree in business administration from Cuesta College and a bachelor of science degree in business administration, with an emphasis on accounting, from Cal Poly.
She is a certified public accountant and a certified public financial officer.
A Santa Barbara resident, she has worked for the city of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College and was a consultant for a local software company for system implementation, project management and business process analysis.
Schaffer started her career with the county in the Auditor-Controller's Office as an accountant-auditor trainee in the New Auditor Training and Development Program.
Prior to becoming the assistant auditor-controller, she was the division chief of Financial Reporting, Budget, and Cost.
She has also held the positions of chief deputy controller, division chief of Operations and interim internal audit manager.
“Unlike many local elected offices, the position of auditor-controller has highly specific education, accounting and auditing experience requirements to ensure that the public’s funds remain safe and are spent in accordance with the adopted budget,” Schaffer said.
Schaffer said she exceeds all of the required qualifications and has proven her competency for the job as the chief deputy controller and assistant auditor-controller.
In addition, she said she has provided sound financial leadership and implemented cost-effective improvements to better serve the public and wants to continue to do so as head of the office.
“I am honored to have received the early endorsement of both of the last two auditor-controllers, Bob Geis and Theo Fallati, as well as supervisors Joan Hartmann and Janet Wolf,” she said.