Bonds

Tanya Garost steps up to lead GFOA

Tanya Garost, the incoming president of the Government Finance Officers Association who has more than two decades of experience in Canadian public finance, said local governments on both sides of the border share more similarities than differences — especially when it comes to their challenges.

“We are facing a lot of the same issues: polarizing politics, recruitment and retention of our workforce, the need to renew our infrastructure,” Garost told The Bond Buyer. “There are some differences, but a lot of our big-picture issues are the same.”

Garost, who is the city manager of Martensville, Saskatchewan, takes the GFOA’s helm after being elected last June. She grew up in a British Columbia municipality called 100 Mile House, originally a stagecoach stop on the Gold Rush Trail, and began her public finance career in accounting. The connection between municipal accounting and the development of a community asset like a park or swimming pool “fascinated” her, she said.

Tanya Garost, Chief Administrative Officer, District of Lake Country, British Columbia, will serve as GFOA’s 2023–2024 president.

Tanya Garost

She’s past president of the Government Finance Officers of British Columbia and started with the GFOA in 2017 by sitting on the Canada standing committee on Canadian Issues before joining the executive committee in 2020.

Garost said local U.S. officials can learn from the way Canadian governments tackle some challenges, which she hopes to highlight during her one-year tenure.

One is the infrastructure funding gap.

“One of the strengths where Canada has been leading the U.S. is in recognition of our infrastructure deficit,” she said. Asset management plans, for example, are widely used tools across Canadian governments. “Across Canada there are varying standards, but most provinces require municipalities to have an asset management plan to get any funding from the federal government. So, at all levels there is a recognition that managing our assets appropriately is a requirement.”

Another area where the U.S. could learn from Canada is with the recognition of past historical wrongs, like displacement of native populations, Garost said. In Canada, for example, most city council and other government meetings begin with formal land acknowledgements, which are “one small example of the recognition of the role that indigenous people played in the land,” she said.  

“Canada has done a lot of work in truth and reconciliation; we’re a long way off but it’s a start,” she said. “We are taking a step in the right direction, and we could bring that message to the U.S.”

Garost takes the helm of the organization during a year when the U.S. faces a high-stakes national election and amid rising political polarization in both countries. The GFOA, as a nonpolitical organization, will steer clear of election politics, but local officials can’t help but get caught in the charged political atmosphere, which sometimes makes communicating with the public difficult, she said.

“We have had a decline of trust in government and communicating with our public has gotten so different” with social media and other changes, she said. “If we’re trying to report financial information or get public input, it can be a real struggle,” she said. “In different provinces, different communities, across Canada and the U.S., it’s a similar challenge.”

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