Orleans Rethinking Finance Director Position

by Ryan Bray

ORLEANS – Two town staffers were interviewed by the select board last week to be Orleans’ next finance director. But discussions that followed suggest officials are reimagining what that position could be in the future.

Town Accountant Jennifer Mince and Mihaela Miteva, the town’s licensing and procurement director, both interviewed Jan. 24 for the director job, which was vacated with the retirement of Cathy Doane at the end of November.

Mince, who was hired in April, has a diverse background in the private sector, as well as nonprofit and corporate finance. That includes experience as a small business owner and working on Wall Street. Miteva has 14 years of municipal experience working for both the town of Wellfleet and Orleans, where she has worked for the past six years.

While neither were seen as the right fit for the finance director job, board members and Town Manager Kim Newman said there’s great opportunity for both Mince and Miteva to grow into larger roles within the finance department.

“I’d be looking for suggestions on that note,” said board member Andrea Reed.

Prior to coming to Orleans, Mince worked as controller for YMCA Cape Cod in Hyannis. Prior to that, she worked in the private sector as a business manager and as an equity and currency trader. She also operated her own business, Mince Kitchen & Bath Design LLC, from 2013 to 2020.

Municipal finance represents a new venture for Mince. But while she’s still learning, she described herself as an “eager, hard working finance professional.” She also touted her familiarity with different systems, and admitted to being a self professed “Excel nerd.”

“I’m not only good at it, I love it,” she said.

Mince also described herself as a “people person” and someone who takes a “firm but fair” approach to managing employees.

“It’s kind of stuck with me, because I do set high expectations, but I’m fair about it,” he said.

With Mince’s diverse background, Reed asked what it was that attracted her to work in town government. Mince said she needs to find enjoyment in her job and where she works, and that she’s found it in Orleans.

“I do feel like I’ve become part of the fabric of Orleans,” Mince said. “I like it here.”

Miteva began her work in town government in 2010 in Wellfleet. She started as human resources assistant to the town manager and the town’s municipal water system coordinator. She later served as executive assistant to the town manager before coming to Orleans in 2017.

In Orleans, Miteva started as licensing agent and procurement coordinator, and her role eventually was elevated to that of director. In 2023, she became the town’s projects and procurement director.

In her resume, Miteva said she serves the Orleans community with “love, care and respect,” and also pointed to the more than $100 million worth of projects she has helped the town oversee. During her interview, she called herself “an ideal fit” for the finance director job.

“I believe the last 14 years have prepared me for this position,” she said.

Miteva is also currently taking courses to get her certificate in municipal finance management. She advocated for the town to make an internal hire for the finance director job, saying the Healey Administration is making efforts to incentivize “current municipal employees to take additional responsibilities and grow within their own organizations.”

Newman agreed, saying that the current opening represents an opportunity to invest in the talent the town already has working for it.

“I think we absolutely want to find a way to let both of these employees grow here,” she said. “I don’t want either of them to think that we would want to go in any other direction than considering both of them for additional responsibilities and roles in the organization.”

As for the finance director role, Newman said she envisions a restructuring of the finance department where that role wouldn’t be needed. She said the market is not strong right now for a “traditional” finance director, noting that three external candidates that applied for the position did not meet the town’s needs for the role.

But as Newman sees it, that traditional model may be a thing of the past.

“In an ideal universe, you do have one finance director that heads up an entire finance department,” she said. “I don’t know that we ever need to go back there.”

Instead, Newman told the select board she’d like to see town’s assessing, accounting, treasurer and MIS staff reporting directly to the town manager, telling the select board that she wants a “direct line” to staff in those departments.

In a follow up email, Newman said there are no plans for posting again for the finance director job “right away or as it was structured.” She said she sees potential in the creation of a hybrid town accountant/finance director position.

In Mince, Newman said she sees someone ready to grow into that town accountant/finance director role. Meanwhile, she said Miteva’s experience in procurement could be utilized in a new role managing grants and projects for the town.

“They are different functions within the office,” she said. “I would say both positions belong in the finance office and not in the manager’s office.”

Mefford Runyon of the select board admitted to having doubts about how either candidate would fit in a finance director role prior to the interviews. But afterward he said he supported plans to allow Mince and Miteva to grow with the town and take on added responsibilities.

Part of a finance director’s job is to prepare and execute a vision for how to lead the finance department into the future, he said. “I think both have it in them to do that.”

The board voted 4-0 to authorize Newman to negotiate with Mince and Miteva to help fill the finance director position in the interim. Newman said any changes to job descriptions or titles would need additional approval from the select board.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com