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River Falls finance director goes beyond the numbers

Hammond resident Al Rolek now has a much shorter drive to work. Formerly employed in the Minneapolis metro area, Rolek is the new finance director for the city of River Falls.

The commute to River Falls is much nicer than the drive to the Twin Cities, Rolek said. And so far, everything has gone very well with his new job.

“The people that work here have been very welcoming,” Rolek said. “I think (River Falls is) a nice, small town...the people seem to be friendly, the properties are well kept, for the most part. People have pride in their community.”

Rolek grew up in Minneapolis. He received a two-year accounting degree from Anoka Ramsey Community College and went to work in the finance department with the city of Falcon Heights.

“While I was working there, I went back to college and decided that municipal finance was a great career path for me,” Rolek said. “I felt that I was good with numbers, was good with analytics, and so it was a good career choice for me.”

Rolek earned his bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University. He later did some Master’s studies at Hamline University.

He said he didn’t plan to enter the field of municipal finance until after he’d gotten the job in Falcon Heights.

“As I moved through and learned the functions of government and learned the different ways that government affects people's lives and what my role was in doing that, it drew me in,” Rolek said. “I just felt that it was a career that not only satisfied my need for working with analytical situations, but I’d also had a greater good, if you will, in serving the public.”

As finance director, Rolek oversees all of the accounting functions in the city, from budgeting to payroll. He oversees and manages the city's debt and debt financing for projects, oversees the utility billing process, and manages the city’s insurance policies.

Rolek said he still works with former city finance director, and current Assistant City Administrator Julie Bergstrom often.

“I’m pretty fortunate to have Julie here in that normally when you enter a situation like this, your predecessor leaves for another job or retirement or what have you,” Rolek said. “I can go and talk with Julie if I have questions or require an explanation or just want to find out how and why things were done prior to my coming here.”

As he moves forward with his new job, Rolek said he’s looking forward to what’s ahead and working with his new city colleagues.

The best part of his job, he said, is getting to work with people.

“Numbers are great, but numbers aren’t interactive,” he said. “So you get the most pleasure from your job working with the people that you work with and getting to know them.”

Rolek has also been very active in the Minnesota Government Finance Officer’s association and the National Government Finance Officers Association and has served in leadership roles at state and national levels.

He’s lived in Hammond for about five years.

When Rolek isn’t managing the city’s finances, he enjoys going to his cabin in Minnesota, hunting for upland game, ice fishing in winter, golfing in summer, and he also enjoys music. He plays guitar and has played music professionally.

Rolek’s first official day was Oct. 25. For now, he said, he’s just enjoying being here.

“I’m very grateful that I have had the opportunity to join the staff here in River Falls,” he said, “and look forward to working with them in the future and learning more about the staff and the city and it’s residents.”

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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