Issue 105 - November 2020
A Q&A with California JPIA Executive Committee President Margaret Finlay
Intrigued by the idea of mitigating risk through education and training, the California JPIA’s Executive Committee President Margaret Finlay, a councilmember for the City of Duarte, applied for and was elected to a position on the Executive Committee in 1997, then elected vice president in 2012 and president in 2020.
“Margaret brings a grounded, pragmatic approach and practical experience to her many roles in public service,” said Chief Executive Officer Jon Shull. “During her more than 20 years as a member and leader of the Executive Committee, the Authority has advanced from largely claims management to innovative risk management.”
Finlay, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of a City of Duarte councilmember in 1990, has served on the Duarte City Council for 30 years, including six terms as mayor. She also has been elected by her colleagues as president of the California Contract Cities Association and the Southern California Association of Governments and served on the boards of directors of the National League of Cities, League of California Cities, Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, Los Angeles County Library Association, San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Liability Trust Fund Oversight Committee.
In addition to her public service as an elected official, Finlay has supported her community as president of both the Duarte Education Foundation and the Royal Oaks Parent Teacher Association and as a volunteer guide for the Tournament of Roses and a church youth leader.
Finlay holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing focus from St. Mary’s College at the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Long Beach, where she has taught as an adjunct professor. Finlay also is an alumna of the Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Alpha Alpha academic honor societies.
Finlay and her husband, Brad, have five children and 18 grandchildren.
Q: How does your experience add value for the Authority and its member agencies?
Because I have been affiliated with many different governmental agencies over the years, I have a good sense of what it takes in the decision-making process to understand the best resolution for a given scenario. There is a lot of common sense involved with making decisions regarding risk management; with the expertise and leadership of our excellent Authority staff, as well as input from elected officials throughout California, we are able to best serve our members in making responsible financial as well as ethical decisions.
Q: How would you describe the Authority to a fellow elected official?
I tell other elected officials all the time that the California JPIA is more than just a risk management pool. We are an organization that helps to reduce losses for members, but more importantly, we do this through education and information dissemination that permeates all facets of their agency. I compare the California JPIA to a fraternity or sorority at a massive university in that it allows the members to belong to a smaller organization, asking questions and receiving answers that help to minimize the enormity and complexity of government.
Q: What competitive advantages can the Authority offer to local government agencies?
We are successful because we are available: available to answer questions whenever they arise, available to offer the kind of training that is needed to minimize risk, available to help member agencies navigate the morass of legalities with which they are faced on a daily basis. This is a massive competitive advantage because there is the perception of disinterest exhibited by many governmental entities—and that is not the philosophy embraced at the Authority.
Q: Why are you proud to be affiliated with the California JPIA?
In my 30 years on the city council, I always have sought to work with organizations that I truly feel have made a difference in the lives of people. The California JPIA is at the top of the list. They have been concerned about the quality of life for citizens in their member cities and agencies. The Authority adds value to any member agency; that is a pretty high standard to achieve.
Q: How has the Authority grown and changed during your tenure?
The organization has not only grown in the quantity of members, but also increased the quality of education that is available to all of the members. And where the education is superior, the number and size of the claims will decrease.
Q: What challenges and new developments do you predict in the field of risk management?
I don’t anticipate the number of claims will go down in the future. I would suspect that the number will increase. But, because the California JPIA always keeps our members on the cutting edge of risk management, I am certain that we will continue to create, innovate, educate, and diversify, continuing our upward trajectory to excellence.< Back to Full Issue Print Article