Farms treasurer/controller leaving city on solid financial footing

By: K. Michelle Moran, | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 14, 2017

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Who says you can’t come home again?

Farms City Treasurer/Controller John Lamerato — who officially will retire from the city June 30 — had spent part of his early career — from 1990 to 1994 — in the Farms. And in 2011, after retiring following more than 17 years in Troy, where he was an assistant city manager, Lamerato came back to the Farms in 2011 to helm the city’s Finance Department.

While some people might have hit cruise control, Lamerato continued to push for greater excellence, playing a vital role in the city’s attainment of a AAA bond rating — the highest possible — in 2015. The Farms became the first community in Wayne County to reach this distinction, followed by Grosse Pointe Shores and Grosse Pointe City. Lamerato also initiated the city’s award-winning Popular Annual Financial Report, a brochure-sized, user-friendly annual overview of the city’s finances designed for people who aren’t financial experts.

 Grosse Pointe Farms City Treasurer/Controller John Lamerato holds a plaque containing multiple years’ worth of awards from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the city’s detailed audit reports. Lamerato will be retiring from the city this month.

Grosse Pointe Farms City Treasurer/Controller John Lamerato holds a plaque containing multiple years’ worth of awards from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for the city’s detailed audit reports. Lamerato will be retiring from the city this month.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

City Manager Shane Reeside said the PAFR — which is sent to every home with one of the city’s newsletters — “has been popular with our residents.” It takes additional time and effort for Lamerato and the Finance Department — like the more extensive and user-friendly audit report, for which Lamerato has consistently won the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada — but it makes the city’s complex finances more accessible to everyone and improves transparency.

Mayor James Farquhar — who presented Lamerato with a resolution from the city during a June 5 City Council meeting — thanked him for all he’s done for the Farms.

“You’ve always answered every question we’ve ever had and treated everyone with respect,” Farquhar told Lamerato. “I think the city’s a better place (since you returned). We’ve got a AAA bond rating, which is wonderful. … You’ve done a wonderful job for the city. I know everyone respects you.”

Lamerato holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Aquinas College and a Master of Arts degree in public administration from Central Michigan University. His first municipal job was assistant to the city manager of Ferndale, for which he was hired in 1975. He also worked in governmental finance for Port Huron before coming to the Farms.

“He was one of the first people I met when I started (working for the Farms) 26 years ago,” Reeside said. “I liked him immediately.”

During his initial tenure with the city, Reeside said, Lamerato strengthened the Farms’ financial operations, initiated a reassessment of the city and applied for — and received — the Farms’ first Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for its audit.

“John just brought the highest level of professionalism in the field,” Reeside said. “He’s clearly well-seasoned. He’s respected by his peers not only in the community, but statewide.”

That was never more evident than when Lamerato was honored with the prestigious Jeffrey C. Pardee Honorary Lifetime Membership Award from the Michigan Government Finance Officers Association in 2015. It’s a lifetime achievement award that recognizes Lamerato’s long and distinguished career in municipal finance. Lamerato said that award is one of his proudest accomplishments, along with achieving a AAA bond rating for the Farms. Lamerato helped Troy achieve a AAA bond rating as well.

Lamerato said he’s also proud of the fact that he helped the Farms move forward “on a lot of credit card acceptance and new financial software.” As a result, residents can now pay city bills online with a credit card, register for classes, and pay for things like their Pier Park boatwell or dog license.

“Everything’s in good shape,” Lamerato said. “We’ve got a good system in place.”

Officials who’ve worked closely with Lamerato agree with that.

“As chair of the city’s Audit and Budget Committee, I was able to see firsthand the steady and intelligent hand he always brought to the laborious budget process and the city’s finances,” City Councilman Louis Theros said by email. “John is a true professional and gentleman in every way. I know his shoes will be hard to fill.”

Lamerato, 63, of Sterling Heights, says he doesn’t have any “real set plans” for his retirement, but he does hope to spend more time with his four grandchildren, ages 1 to 5. He and his wife, Linda, are parents to three adult sons, one of whom lives in California and has two children, and two of whom still live in metro Detroit. Linda Lamerato retired June 16 from her position as a paraprofessional in special education for the Macomb Intermediate School District. The couple has a cabin up north as well.

“We’re going to be spending more time up there,” Lamerato said.

After accepting a retirement incentive in Troy, he said he “wasn’t quite ready to hang it up at that time,” so Lamerato was happy to be able to return to the Farms. He initially agreed to work for the city for five years, but ended up staying on another year.

“These past six years have really gone by fast, and I thank the City Council for letting me finish out my career here,” he said during the June 5 council meeting.

Although he officially retires as of the end of the fiscal year June 30, Lamerato said his actual last day on the job is June 28.