Starting this week, City of Bishop Assistant Finance Director Cheryl Solesbee will be training her replacement until Solesbee retires in January, ending, by all accounts, a 27-year career of outstanding, to-the-penny services and exceptional commitment.
Solesbee started with the city as an account clerk in 1987, eventually serving as accounting secretary and budget manager and since 2012, as assistant finance director. Throughout the years, Solesbee said, “there have been many challenges, but the most consistent one is providing (City) Council and the community with a well-represented financial statement and budget, year after year.” The flip side of that challenge, she said, is the huge reward of knowing that she has “served the city, employees and community with dedication and righteousness.”
Coworkers sing her praises, confirming that Solesbee righteously earned that reward.
City Administrator and Finance Director Keith Caldwell has “always been impressed with Cheryl’s dedication and loyalty to the city and outstanding service to the City Council during the eight years I’ve known her. One of her top priorities is to provide a good, easy-to-decipher budget outline.” Despite the length of her tenure, “Cheryl comes to work every day like it’s her first day, ready to work – even now when the countdown (to her last day) is on. With her tremendous work ethic, she’s a great role model.” Caldwell added that Solesbee was also integral to his training as finance director, helping him “understand the budget inside and out. There is never anything you could ask that Cheryl doesn’t provide to the city.”
City Clerk Robin Picken said, “It has been an absolute pleasure working with Cheryl since I started here on Feb. 8.” After former City Clerk Denise Gillespie trained Pickens and retired, Solesbee has always been available for guidance. “I will really miss Cheryl when she is gone. She comes in with a smile and is ready to help – not just me, but everyone who may walk in the front door of our city offices. She is a true gem … a stellar employee and definitely keeps Bishop’s finances on track.”
Inyo County District 3 Supervisor Rick Pucci, who worked with Solesbee for more than 10 years during his tenure at City Hall as city administrator, concurred, describing her as an “extremely dedicated, motivated” municipal servant. Pucci attributes “the financial stability of our fine city to the hard work of Cheryl and the city’s financial staff. I would wish Cheryl and her wonderful family the best that retirement has to offer.”
Gillespie, Solesbee’s close friend and former coworker, met her “buddy” when Gillespie became city clerk in 1999 and the assistant city clerk had just retired. Solesbee deftly performed ACC duties, which included conducting a general municipal election, in addition to her finance responsibilities, Gillespie recalled. “Cheryl … handled everything that had a dollar sign attached to it. Her knowledge of municipal finance is impressive.” Gillespie added that she will always respect Solesbee’s dependable honesty and straightforwardness and cherish the friendship that grew out of their work relationship.
Solesbee said she will miss her daily interaction with “so many coworkers and friends. You’d be surprised how quickly everyone becomes your second family and ‘home away from home.’” Her last day will be filled with tears, “both of sadness and happiness … I won’t miss the alarm clock at 6 a.m.”
With just 33 more days of 6 a.m. alarms to go, Solesbee said she doesn’t have immediate retirement plans. “I look forward to a solid six months of doing whatever I want when I want. Everyone tells me the first thing I’ll want to do is clean closets. I even look forward to that,” Solesbee said with a soft smile. After that, she may tackle “stacked-up projects” and take a “special” family vacation. “I may want to continue my career in perhaps a different venue, but nothing definite as of yet.”
While Solesbee is sleeping in, cleaning closets and doing life in her own good time, new Assistant Finance Director Lorraine Ray will be balancing the budget. Ray has “extensive experience in governmental, enterprise and budget accounting,” Solesbee said of the former Bishop Paiute Tribe chief financial officer and California Lutheran University accounting manager. “Lorraine will be an asset to the city and she looks forward to our work environment and the challenges of a small governmental agency.”
In the few brief meetings Caldwell has had with Ray, he said he’s been impressed with her knowledge, skills and abilities. “I look forward to her being a big part of the City of Bishop team.”