There’s a new face in Ocean View town hall, with Sandra Peck having joined the Town staff as finance director.
Peck took the position as of Jan. 9, after the retirement of former finance director Lee Brubaker, and immediately took off running, working on the Town’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which was adopted earlier this month.
Peck has an accounting degree from Penn State University and is a licensed CPA in Delaware and Pennsylvania. Additionally, she has her senior human resources certification through two organizations.
Although she grew up in Pennsylvania, Peck and her husband, Chuck, separately, spent their childhoods visiting Delaware.
“My great aunt and uncle lived in Millsboro, right along the river, so we used to come down as kids. My husband grew up since the mid-’60s going to Sandy Cove campground, and his parents had a permanent site there after they retired.”
The Pecks have owned property in Sussex County for about 10 years and moved to their current home in Bayard about five years ago.
Before becoming a fulltime local resident in 2015, Peck was able to work for her company in Pennsylvania from her home in Sussex every other week.
“I’d work a week remote down here and then be in the office for a week. I was able to split my time, which was nice.”
Peck then worked for the Town of Milford for almost a year, as their accounting manager, before joining the Town of Ocean View.
She said she didn’t always know she wanted to go into finance, however, as she first went to college to study elementary and special education.
“My first office job was for a Japanese company that was based in York [Pa.]. That got me into general office work, when I did payroll and some accounting for them.
“I left that job to go hike the Appalachian Trail. While I was on the trail, I decided to go back to college and get my accounting degree. I did not finish the trail, though. I have about 300 miles left. I did 800 miles and literally decided what I wanted to do and walked off. I was in college in a week.”
Along with her financial prowess, Peck also brings her knowledge of human resources to the Town.
“When I was with Dauphin County Library System for 19 years in Pennsylvania, they told me I was hired for, I was told, finance and ‘a little bit of personnel’ is how they put it, which was totally wrong,” she said. “We had 150 employees, a lot of turnover, so I quickly got engrossed in human resources and joined the local chapter.”
Peck plans to keep her HR certifications up-to-date while working for the Town.
“I find it interesting. I personally think you can do right for an organization and the employees, so I’m pretty passionate about the HR side. What I like about both is the financial responsibility is protecting and safeguarding the assets of the Town, which means being fiscally responsible to the Town and the taxpayers. To me, the employees are the most important asset of any organization. So, I think they go hand-in-hand.
“And, in a service organization, the cost of the employees is the largest percentage. Our budget this coming year, it’s going to be 70 percent of our budget. Turnover is expensive,” she added, noting that being fiscally responsible and doing right by employees are not mutually exclusive. “To me, there’s not a whole lot that’s truly confidential. So, if you’re just open and honest about it… We should all be working toward the same goal. I think it does take everybody in an organization for it to be a success.”
Having been with the Town for almost four months, Peck says she loves working for Ocean View.
“The people are great here. I really enjoy it. I think it’s a good group. What I like about the council is they don’t all have to be in agreement. Everybody doesn’t have to be, ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes.’ They can have their differences and talk about it respectfully. They can have their own opinion and still work well together… which is what it should be.”
As for the financial health of the Town, Peck said it is on solid footing.
“I think the biggest question hanging out there is these drainage projects, and I’m still getting up to speed as far as all those types of things. That’s just such a huge cost, and I have questions that I don’t know the answers to yet. That, to me, is really the biggest question mark out there, because it’s such huge dollars and only gets more expensive as time goes on.”
With the Town having just passed its 2018 budget, Peck continued to echo Brubaker in saying that the Town needs to continue to wean itself off of transfer tax revenue.
“At some point, I would imagine the State is going to decrease what the Town gets, percentage-wise. And the second piece of that, of course, is the build-out of Ocean View. When we’re maxed out, we would have a drastic reduction. I do think that is one of the danger areas, so I do think it is good that we’re weaning ourselves off.”
She added, however, that she would like it to happen at an even faster rate.
“An advantage of doing that while the transfer tax is higher is that it helps to build the reserve funds that are going to pay for these large projects, be it streets, drainage, sidewalks… It’s all building things for the Town’s future. So, if we can get money in there while the dollars are higher, that’s to our advantage in the future.”
Now that budget season is over, Peck said she plans to do a more in-depth review of various facets of the Town’s finances.
“Fortunately, it was left in good shape. It’s really nice to come in to know it’s running fine. Carol [Lebedz, staff accountant] and I have a lot of plans to walk through each area and review it, see if there are any changes to be made... I’ve identified some things that I want to look at internally and make some adjustments.”
In her tenure with the Town, Peck said she hopes to always be known for looking out for Ocean View’s best interests.
““I hope I’ll be known for that. You can come to me, and I’ll be honest and open. You might not like what I say, you may not agree with it, but that’s a different piece of it.
“I take my work very seriously… It needs to be done right, and it needs to be done well. My hope is that I’ll leave the Town, whenever I leave, as well or in better financial position … as when I walked in the door, and that it will be viewed that I walked the walk and talked the talk.”