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City treasurer’s decades-long career has been so money

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The last time the city of Fredericksburg had a treasurer other than G.M. (Jim) Haney, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had recently landed on the moon, Steve Jobs was a teenager and President Richard Nixon had not yet been brought down by Watergate.

Haney is now down to his last couple of weeks in office as the city’s treasurer, a job he has held since Jan. 1, 1970.

Brenda Wood, who has served as Haney’s chief deputy treasurer since 2009 and whom Haney endorsed as his successor, will officially take over Jan. 1 after being elected in November. She will be just the fifth Fredericksburg treasurer since 1891 and the first woman during that stretch.

Though the 81-year-old Haney will no longer be coming into an office on the first floor of City Hall that he calls his “home away from home,” the Fredericksburg resident doesn’t plan an idle retirement.

He will remain involved in the local businesses he owns—including the Allman’s Bar–B–Q restaurant near Eagle Village and the Telephone Answering Service Inc. taxicab and dispatch company—and is trying to turn his vision for a Fredericksburg botanical garden into reality.

Haney has carried that diversity of interests and high-energy level throughout his long career as city treasurer.

A former boxer, amateur pilot, pool shark and Pac–Man aficionado, Haney has balanced his professional obligations over the past 44 years with activities ranging from singing in a barbershop quartet and leading fundraisers for local charities to serving in leadership positions for a state treasurers’ association and holding a weekly Bible study at his College Avenue house. He has two adult children who both live in the area: businessman Matt and attorney Beverly.

Haney was born and raised in Fredericksburg, attending James Monroe High School and leaving the ’Burg only for college at the University of Richmond and a two-year stint in the U.S. Marine Corps. He followed his father into the vending business before launching his political career in 1965.

Haney said he had a job in the Marine Corps that was similar to the one he would later take on as treasurer. That convinced him to run against longtime City Treasurer Kuszner Bauman in 1965, an election he lost by fewer than 20 votes.

Undeterred, Haney ran again in 1969 and captured the post. Four decades later, Haney decided it was time to step aside after this term ends. He said his Parkinson’s disease has been catching up to him, and he wanted to see Wood take over the job.

Wood has worked for Haney since 2002. She started at the treasurer’s office as Haney’s longtime wife, Earline, was preparing to retire after working in the office for 31 years.

Wood said Haney installed a lot of cutting-edge technologies in the treasurer’s office and enjoyed one of the state’s highest tax-collection rates. But what she will take away most from Haney is his ability to be compassionate with residents going through hard times and create a family environment in the office.

“I have pretty big shoes to fill,” she said. Wood called Haney a “one-man think tank” and said he has had “an incredible career.”

Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron, who has worked with Haney for 27 years, also had high praise for the longtime treasurer. He said Haney played a leadership role in actively investing the city’s idle cash in safe instruments—a practice that since 1998 has exceeded the returns under the previous strategy by more than $1 million.

“I am honored to have been his colleague over the years,” Cameron said. “Jim embodies the ‘Virginia Gentleman,’ with his courtesy, professionalism and high ethical standards. I have great respect for his guiding leadership as treasurer of the city of Fredericksburg.”

The city of Fredericksburg held a reception for Haney, Virginia’s longest-serving treasurer, on Monday in City Hall. Haney was presented with a Virginia flag that flew over the state capitol building and greeted by friends, family and city staff. His family is planning another event to celebrate Haney’s career in a few months.

Haney is honored by all the praise, but said nobody needs to thank him for his long tenure.

“The Lord’s blessed me,” he said. “I’ve had the best of everything. . . . I’ve loved every minute of my job.”

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405

bfreehling@freelancestar.com

 

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