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In Comptrol

In ComptrolIt’s not ‘controller’, it’s ‘comptroller’ says Tufts graduate William Thompson Jr.– who, as chief financial officer for NYC, is keeping a lot more than spelling in check. New York City.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.16.03] William Thompson Jr. just audited New York's Transit Authority. As the comptroller for New York City, the Tufts graduate has the important - and difficult - job of budgeting America's largest city. But as Thompson tackles NYC's finances during one of the most difficult economic times in recent memory, he keeps in mind the big picture: cutting spending, promoting investment - and the fact that the average New Yorker has no idea what he does.

"I don't think people understand half of what we do," Thompson told Time Out New York. "Everyone knows what the mayor does. He runs the city. What does the city councilman do? He does legislation. Well, the comptroller, he controls the money. Why is it important? It is the second-highest citywide elected office, and it touches every area of the city."

Thompson's role has become increasingly important as he attempts to bring the city out of a serious budget deficit. The Tufts graduate recently joined leading economists, budget experts and business leaders in voicing his concern over the city's finances at an economic summit at the Federal Reserve Bank - and continues to take high-profile measures to bring the city's finances to the political forefront.

"The city's budget crisis has led [Thompson] to take on a more visible role - warning against waste, cheerleading for investment and trying to explain to ordinary New Yorkers why their city is grappling with a nearly $4 billion budget deficit," reported Newsday.

And while the tough fiscal situation forces Thompson to make some difficult decisions - such as forcing an audit on the Transit Authority, which hadn't been done in over 12 years - the Tufts graduate feels that he must make the best of the situation.

"This is a tough time, but at the same time you have to be poised to take advantage of it," Thompson - who took office in January 2002 -- told Newsday.

Thompson's hard work and innovative approach appear to be paying off. The Tufts graduate is already garnering support from major political figures as a person to watch.

"[Thomson is] the ultimate 21st century black politician," Rev. Al Sharpton told Newsday. "He has learned how to relate to all communities without compromising his integrity in his own community. He has done a competent job as comptroller."

Others agree.

"People like Billy," Basil Paterson - former deputy mayor and New York secretary of state - told Newsday. "He has great interpersonal skills. He thinks his moves out, but it doesn't slow him down. He is well-suited for the job. He has given himself a range of experiences that all come together now and help him particularly in office."

Thompson says he learned an early appreciation for life in public service during his childhood. His father, a Supreme Court judge, was the first African American city resident elected to the New York State Senate.

"I grew up in a household where public service was important," Thompson - whose mother is a teacher - told Newsday.

Many speculate that Thompson's strong performance as NYC comptroller makes him a favored candidate for future mayor or even New York state governor. However, the Tufts graduate says that for now he plans to focus on his job -- keeping the city's spending in check.

"I think it is important to stay focused on where I am now," Thompson told Newsday. "It is important to do this job and do it well."

 

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