District Business Manager John Stewart Retires

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Thursday June 09, 2016

Business Manager John Stewart has tackled numerous school budgets, overseen minute details of the district’s financial portfolio, and has exhibited tremendous humility and grace under pressure as he navigated complex financial processes. Whether you know Stewart from hearing him speak at the annual pre-town meeting day or have asked him for further explanation on a financial matter at a school board meeting, there’s a good chance you left the interaction feeling positive. That’s just part of Stewart’s character, he has the ability to put people at ease even when explaining the most intricate financial matter.

Board member Elizabeth Fitzgerald said, “Stewart has served in the capacity of business manager for the South Burlington school district with integrity and fidelity during his tenure. John has worked diligently to ensure that the district stays on top of critical issues largely by developing relationships at the state and local level and routinely” digging in” to the details, which has ensured that any “surprises” are minimized!”

Stewart’s education in finance began when he was working toward a degree in Industrial Administration from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan. During his five year program of study, he was sponsored by General Motors Assembly Plant and held assignments in payroll, accounts payable, and accounting as well as general ledger sections of the finance department. When he graduated, he began working for the GM Lordston, Ohio plant as an internal auditor where he was responsible for meeting accounting deadlines and overseeing the pay of 8,000 employees.

Although it seems as though Stewart has always been at the helm of the district business office, it has in fact only been nine years! Stewart was the Goddard College Business Manager for two years and was the the City of Burlington’s Chief Accountant for 19 years before coming to South Burlington.

The job of business manager is not for everyone. It requires immense commitment of both time and energy. Although Stewart came into the position a seasoned professional, he cited the time and effort involved in successfully performing the position of business manager as the the most challenging aspect of his role over the years. Aside from keeping keen oversight on the district’s finances, the position also requires advance preparation for and active participation in meetings up to four nights per week as well as regular weekend work.

Former board member Dan Fleming said, “It has been an honor and pleasure to work with John Stewart. He is the consummate professional: always ready to provide needed information, always working to provide correct information, always ready to use his skills to help, always being there when needed. His dedication is a model for all.”

Reflecting on his position, Stewart said, “I have worked hard to do what I can to safeguard the trust of the public in the finances of the district. The business office continues to make the effort to comply with the many and varied facets of our state’s education laws, as well as federal regulations and the City of South Burlington Charter. During our budget processes, I have worked diligently to present as many details as I could during the board’s public hearings so that our voters could be informed. We have shied away from making risky projections, which is why I have the reputation of being conservative. I think that this is one of the reasons that South Burlington has not had a budgetary deficit in the general fund.”

Stewart’s engaging nature has forged meaningful connections with colleagues during his tenure in South Burlington. Over the past nine years, Stewart has faced personal transitions including the passing of family members and the support of the district staff during those moments was “wonderful.” In addition to challenging moments, Stewart’s tenure has also been filled with celebrations, including the joy he and his wife Martha shared when both of their children received bachelor and masters degrees, married, and pursued their chosen professions. They have also welcomed two grandchildren.

As Stewart’s time serving the district in his current role comes to a close, he has been thinking about his next steps, including volunteer opportunities and touring nature preserves, which has always been an interest he has shared with his daughter Emma, who is a bio botanist.

Superintendent David Young concluded, “John is best known for his kind and compassionate demeanor, his strong and confident mind specific to educational finance, his unwavering ability to always see the good in everyone, and most importantly, John is a great employee, colleague and someone I will greatly miss. Job well done.”

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent