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Stockton’s Newest Chief Financial Officer Says She’s Ready For Challenge

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STOCKTON (CBS13) – The troubled city of Stockton is bankrupt and now has its third chief financial officer in just a year.

The woman brought in to clean up the city’s mess talked with CBS13’s Laura Cole on Monday about why she took the job and what she plans to do now.

Stockton is used to facing challenges. Now they must fix their finances, and the city’s new chief financial officer says she’s up for the task.

“I spent years telling corporations how to fix it,” Vanessa Burke said. “Now I’m actually in the seat to actually fix it.”

Burke knows numbers. With more than 20 years in public and private accounting performing audits on large state and local governments, she certainly has the confidence to balance Stockton’s books and lead the city through bankruptcy.

“The measure of my success in my job would be that I provide the financial stability and sustainability for the future for the city of Stockton,” she said.

The first step is proving in bankruptcy court that the city doesn’t have enough money to pay off its debts.

With a $26 million deficit and 25 percent fewer police officers and firefighters on the streets than at Stockton’s peak, Burke says protecting the city’s services is a top priority.

Some might say that Burke is taking on a tough task few would want.

“I would say I have an undying passion to move the city forward in the direction that City Council has tasked us to move, and that would be to get its fiscal house in order,” she said.

That means accurate financial reporting, transparency and having checks and balances in place to help Stockton become sustainable once again, striving to live up to its motto as the “All-American City.”

“I don’t believe that fixes come overnight and that expansion happens overnight, but I do believe the City Council, the city manager and the new leadership team that’s here is tasked and ready to move the city forward,” Burke said.

Now the state controller’s office is conducting an audit and taking a look at Stockton’s books. We were told in June that the audit would probably be completed by the end of summer.

The controller’s office said Monday, however, that it may take several more weeks, possibly even months to complete.

As for how long it might take the city to emerge from bankruptcy, Burke said it’s just too early to tell.

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