PUD Welcomes New Financial Analyst

Story and photo by Rodger Nichols

James Ruoff joined Northern Wasco County PUD in January.

One of Northern Wasco County PUD’s newest employees is Senior Financial Analyst James Ruoff. The native Midwesterner is from southern Michigan, near Ann Arbor. He attended Northern Michigan University in Marquette and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

“After I graduated, I was looking for jobs in areas that offered activities I like, which are snowboarding and hiking,” James says. “I was looking to get a second degree, so I applied to universities mostly for accounting positions where I could also get a discount on tuition.”

The job James landed in 2015 was as an accountant at Oregon State University. He eventually moved to a higher-level position as the accountant for the provost’s office graduate school, and the university relations and marketing department.

“I got to really learn about their operations and help work with their department leaders,” James says. “Financial literacy—making good financial decisions—is not always clear. It takes a good bit of face-to-face conversations and things so you can understand what they do and how their finances relate to their ability to successfully fulfill their missions for the university. I worked with them on that and establishing different programs and funding models.”

James says it was an interesting experience because he worked with several departments to help them build out their budgets and deal with $30 million. He also worked with university relations and marketing.

Two things led James to a job with Northern Wasco County PUD: the desire to expand into other areas of his profession and a year at OSU that put him under a lot of pressure.

“We had to make a 5% reduction in our spending in six months,” he says of his role at the university.

James said they tried to make cuts across the board, but there was always the possibility a program would be cut.

“We tried to limit that as much as possible,” he says. “I would examine with them every avenue possible to continue their mission within the new constraints. We tried to make more selective decisions, and that’s harder.”

James joined the PUD on January 6. He works on payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable.

“I’m learning a lot right now,” he says, “and then we’ll start to build out my roles and responsibilities.”

James says he will eventually do an analysis, where his university experience will be a big help.

“The operation is very similar to what I’ve been used to doing, except it’s a little bit smaller organization and a little bit easier to manage,” he says, noting that at OSU he dealt with 30 different departments.

When not working, James says he tries to get out into nature.

“Part of the reason why I like this opportunity is that it’s close to snowboarding,” he says with a smile. “I’m really not as good as I would like to be, because until I moved here, I didn’t get a regular chance to go.”

When he does grab his board and head to Mount Hood, he chooses Mt. Hood Meadows over Timberline.

“Some people like the more technical aspects of Timberline. I like the more relaxed open spaces of Meadows,” he says, noting that Meadows, as the larger resort, offers more choices of runs.

While his family is still in Michigan, he says he expects to make friends at the PUD.

“It’s a good group of people to work with,” James says. “Everyone’s interested in learning and improving. It was one of the things we discussed in my interviews— how they’re looking to innovate and bring on new systems and improve the overall processes around here. That’s something I’m a big proponent of and enjoy being a part of.

“It’s been really good working with everyone so far and just learning processes, seeing how I can bring my skills in and help push things forward and really partner with the community to better serve them,” he says.