I have a new job and a new hometown: I am CFO of the Kansas City Chiefs, and I now live in the Kansas City metro area. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think these things would happen.
Like most New Orleanians, I have strong ties to the Crescent City, where my family has lived since before the Civil War. I was raised there, and I completed all my schooling there, even my MBA. I am the first in my family to move away, something I never thought I would do, especially since surviving Hurricane Katrina.
New Orleanians are used to the threat of hurricanes, so we prepare for them. When the storm was predicted, as CFO for a major water bottler, I helped put our disaster plan into effect. We bottled and delivered water until the last minute, then we prepared for the worst. We shut the servers down, carried electronic equipment up to the second floor, moved as many trucks as we could to a higher elevation, and locked the gates. Despite our preparations, when Katrina hit, all of the bottling equipment was destroyed, and the plant and buildings couldn’t be occupied for many months.
As we were securing the plant, my family was preparing to evacuate. We loaded the car with three days of clothing and drove to a relative’s house about 80 miles north of New Orleans, not knowing it would be months before we could return.
Several days after the storm passed, I got a pass to return to the city to help get the business running again. I was floored by the devastation. I stopped on an overpass, and the street below was flooded with water so high it almost lapped the edges of the overpass.
Katrina was a devastating experience; it took months to recover. And some businesses did not fully get back to normal, mine included.
In 2007, two years after the storm, my company was sold. A friend passed my resume to the New Orleans Hornets basketball team, and I was offered the position of CFO. One of my first tasks was to bring the team home! The Hornets had relocated to Oklahoma City until its Katrina-damaged arena was repaired. Bringing the team home meant restaffing a lot of departments and training people to do their jobs.
We came home in the spring. The season started in October, so we didn’t have a lot of time to get settled. And—as I quickly found out—the offseason in sports is actually the busiest time for the accounting department. It’s when we close out our books and prepare budgets for the new fiscal year.
My experience with the Hornets gave me a great introduction to professional sports, and in September 2010, the Chiefs invited me to be their CFO. Although taking this position meant leaving my hometown, it was an easy decision to make. The Hunt family [the Chiefs’ owners] and the team are special, and the Chiefs’ organization has a rich tradition within the community and the NFL.
I’m surprised transitioning has been easy! Of course, I really enjoy my job, up to and including the game-day experience. It’s great to be at all of the home games and to be a part of what goes on behind the scenes. On game day, I am very busy overseeing all the cash areas, including the box office and parking.
It was a huge change to move to Kansas City, but thanks to the genuine hospitality of the people here, as well as my penchant to get involved, I am beginning to feel a part of the community. In New Orleans I was on the board of Second Harvest Food Bank and Catholic Charities. Here in Kansas City, I’m continuing that involvement in Catholic Charities and Harvesters, which is part of Feeding America. It’s also been fun to explore the city and discover its many beautiful areas, museums and cultural events.
Leaving New Orleans and becoming CFO of an NFL team were things I never imagined I would be doing. But, as I become immersed in my new job and this beautiful city, I am learning to really appreciate my adopted hometown. I think moving here will be a significant milestone for me and my family.
—As told to Linda Segall, firstname.lastname@example.org,
a freelance writer from Jacksonville, Fla.
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