Ask an expert - It takes a village - ALISON BROTHEN, VILLAGE FINANCE DIRECTOR

After college Alison Brothen was having trouble reconciling her accounting degree with a job opportunity. One day, while manning a fitness club front desk in the interim, Brothen shared her struggle with one of the regular members.

"He goes, 'I have my own accounting firm. Give me your resumé,' " she recounted. "I did, and I started working for him."

It was another fortuitous connection early in her career that ultimately would help bring Brothen to Hinsdale, where she recently was named village finance director.

"What I love about Hinsdale, not only is it a beautiful town and the residents are wonderful, but the staff here is also great to work with," she said.

Brothen enjoys the collaborative aspect of the job, interacting with her counterparts in different departments to craft balanced budgets and issue financial reports for the board of trustees' consideration.

"I like when we work together to get the budget completed, and the (Capital Infrastructure Plan) as well, and it all comes together," she said.

A native of Hazelcrest, Brothen found her penchant for crunching numbers in high school.

"I took two accounting classes in high school and thought, 'This is so easy,' " she said. "Then you go to college and you hit the harder classes."

But Brothen stuck with it and, once in the workplace, found particular fulfillment in conducting audits for school districts and municipalities.

That talent led to her hiring as finance director for the community of Country Club Hills and the beginning of more than 25 years in government.

"It was kind of nice because I had a background in (government finance) just doing auditing for it," Brothen said.

Her 15 years in Country Club Hills was followed by positions in the Will County Sheriff's Office and Village of Tinley Park before arriving in Hinsdale in 2016 as assistant village finance director. Brothen had been asked to fill the post by Darrell Langlois, her former colleague when both were young accountants.

"I've know Darrell for more than 30 years," said Brothen, who replaced Langlois after his resignation last year. "You never know when you're going to have a connection or network with people.

"I loved working for Darrell. He was a really good mentor, not only to me but to the staff," she added.

The problem-solving dimension of accounting is where Brothen believes she is truly an asset.

"I like accounting because it can be somewhat challenging, and I thrive on that," she commented. "Like, 'Hey, we're short here or we're over here. How do we fix this?' And we get it to work."

With the current headwinds of inflation and fears of a recession, those skills surely will be put to the test in implementing cuts and identifying savings.

"People like doing crossword puzzles, I like doing financial forecasting," Brothen quipped.

The mother of a 22-year-old daughter Hayley and 20-year-old son Zach remarked at the spirit of teamwork she's experienced to surmount such challenges.

"Everyone is willing to pitch in ‚- that's what I love about Hinsdale," she said.

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean