The Man Behind the Numbers
As he sits behind his desk, papers stacked, folders sticking out, computer playing music, Pullman finance director Bill Mulholland is more than just the “money guy.”
The past five years he has lived between Spokane and Pullman. Waking up every Monday at 3 a.m., getting ready and leaving Spokane by 4:30 a.m. to make it to Pullman by six in the morning. He lives in Pullman until Friday around 4:30 p.m. when he heads back to his Spokane home for the weekend.
Throughout the week, Mulholland doesn’t get to see his wife. After five years as Pullman’s finance director, and five years of mostly seeing his wife on weekends, he’s decided to retire in May 2015.
“My wife said to me, ‘after all your jobs and all our time together, this is the happiest I’ve ever seen you at a job,” he said. “I really do; I’ve got a great staff, I love the people I work with.”
Why leave now?
“Well, when you wake up on Wednesday and think ‘all right I get to go home on Friday’ but then Sunday think ‘well, crap I’ve got to wake up at 3 a.m. tomorrow’ you know it’s probably time,” Mulholland said.
Now, he’s not complaining about going to work, in fact, ask him what he really enjoys and he’ll tell you he’s always loved working.
“It’s an odd thing for people to hear, but I really enjoy coming to work,” he said. “Everyone here knows what they’re doing, and they do an excellent job.”
Mulholland gives people a lot of the credit, but he doesn’t brag that he’s trained or brought people up.
“He has personally trained or had his staff trained by someone else, so they could be multi-faceted,” said Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson. “His staff is cross-trained even, so if someone misses a day, the next person can handle that job too.”
Mulholland has only been the finance director for five years, but he changed the culture in the department, Johnson said. After he arrived, Mulholland faced a daunting task.
“We were in the middle of the recession when Bill came on,” Johnson said. “Even before he got here, some of his staff had looked at other offers. Through really bad timing many of his staffers left to pursue those other jobs.”
Mulholland had to replace an accounting manager, his second in command, and a finance head. On top of that, there were only a few weeks before a major budget plan was due, he said.
“I was announced one day; council approved me the next day; the mayor at the time told me I was going to a convention, and he said ‘oh by the way the we’re three weeks behind on the budget’,” Mulholland said.
Although the biggest part of his job is the city budget, he “wears a lot of different hats in city hall.” He is the finance director: signing checks, talking to department heads, calling departments for clarification on purchases.
“My job is to make sure we are spending the people’s money wisely,” he said. “I talk to department leaders all the time to make sure we’re only spending on things we need; if we can do without it, let’s try to do without it.”
He is the city clerk: takes minutes for council meetings. He is the only person in the city who can approve extensions for things like utility bills, or paying for an ambulance ride.
Mulholland has so much to do, and little time to do it. His planning and organizational skills date back to his time in the military.
“In the military, you have to be able to think steps ahead of what you’re doing and what you will do,” he said. “Finance is the same way; I can’t always predict what will happen, but I need to prepare in case the worst comes.”
Mulholland was in the Army on active duty for four years and active reserve for two more years.
“One job I had was to manage almost everything in the camp. I managed, fuel, transportation, ammunition, food, you name it,” he said. “I got a call one time from my executive officer saying, ‘I’m on such and such range, where is the fuel truck?’
“’Well, I said, ‘If you look over to the hill on your East side it should be cresting over the hill right now.’ As I said that the truck peaked over the hill and my executive officer says ‘okay I see it.’ I just went ‘YES’,” he said as he gave a fist pump in his desk chair remembering the joy he felt.
Organization is key in both the military and in finance, he said. To be a successful leader, whether in the Army by organizing troops or in finance by organizing numbers, there has to be a system to track it all, he said.
As a dad, the military sometimes showed at home. His son, Sean Mulholland, saw leadership in his dad very early.
“My dad and I did Boy Scouts together and that made it hard sometimes to see him as just my dad because he was also my scout leader,” Sean Mulholland said. “That isn’t a bad thing either, he and I bonded a lot and he had a huge impact on my life.”
‘Take care of your men and your mission’ is a phrase that stuck with Sean Mulholland through his youth to this day.
“I was the leader of my patrol in Scouts, and we were lining up to get food at camp. I happened to get near the front, and my dad pulled me out of line,” he said. “Obviously I was upset, I was hungry.
“He told me ‘if they run out of food, your job is to make sure your boys get food. If you take care of your men, they will take care of you’,” Sean Mulholland said. “It taught me that as a leader, a dad, a husband that I should put others first, I have a responsibility to their well-being; I can’t ignore that.”
His father remains a constant source of knowledge and advice to this day.
“I call him every once in a while, and he’ll help me through anything I’m struggling with,” Sean Mulholland said. “We have similar likes and dislikes, it’s nice having a parent like that.”
Scouts, the military, and working jobs in both Arizona and Washington brought Bill Mulholland to Pullman for his last and, by his accounts, best job he’s had.
“I’m looking forward to doing all the things I said I would do more, like golf or fly fish. Mostly I look forward to spending time with my wife for longer than a weekend,” Bill Mulholland said. “It won’t be all relaxing, because like I said, I love working.”
A day of fly-fishing, a few days of golf and some volunteer work per week are in the plans, he said.
“I’ve done a lot of cool stuff with a lot of cool people, but it is time,” he said. “I’m leaving the finance department ready to move on without me. I won’t miss certain elements, like the commute, but I will miss the people; I’ve got a great crew here.”
He won’t officially retire until next May, so he has some time to soak in all the good parts of a job he loves so much.
Bill Mulholland is retiring after 25+ years in 2015. He is a military, family man, who spent the last 5 as the Finance Director in Pullman helping get the sity out of the recession.
Pullman’s Finance Director Bill Mulholland says he’s retiring after this year. He’s been working for 25 years with financial management experience in Washington and Arizona. He’s been in Pullman since September 2009.
The story is relevant because Bill has been so integral the last 5 years and he’s calling it a career after 25+ years.
Need to find a 3rd source
Bill Mulholland, Finance Director, 602-524-4100
Glenn Johnson, Mayor, 509-338-3316
Sean Mulholland, Son, 719-491-8519