URBANA — City hall will lose a 50 combined years of experience when Comptroller Ron Eldridge and Administrative Assistant Connie Eldridge retire at the end of January.
The names are no coincidence — between the two of them, the married couple has logged more than five decades as city employees, and they both plan to make Jan. 28 their last day.
"They'll probably miss her more than they'll miss me," Ron Eldridge said.
Ron Eldridge started at the city in 1979 and is still in charge of the city's finances after 33 years. Connie Eldridge began her city career in the grants management office in 1995.
Ron Eldridge is, in fact, the only comptroller the city of Urbana has ever had. Before he was hired, each city department paid its own bills, had its own bank accounts and managed its own finances.
"No one sort of knew what the other departments were doing," Ron Eldridge said.
He was hired after a consultant recommended the city consolidate its financial efforts, and he's been in charge ever since.
Over the years, the city's budget has grown from about $5 million to $50 million. Ron Eldridge has also been the treasurer of the police and fire pension funds for about two decades.
"I think that we're really well funded on those funds, and we don't have all the problems that other pension funds have," he said.
The fire pension is funded at about 82 percent of its projected obligations and the police pension fund is at about 74 percent. Those numbers were in the mid-90s, he said, before the recession took hold.
After the stock market crash, they plummeted to the mid-60s, but the city has raised its funding levels in the past few years.
"Those are good numbers," Ron Eldridge said. "They will continue to grow over the next four or five years."
The pension funds are not the only thing that were hurt by the recession. City revenues — which are based most heavily on property, sales and income taxes — took a beating during a sluggish economy.
"I think it's going to be a struggle," Ron Eldridge said. "The budgets are going to continue to be a struggle. Cities lost so much. It was like the perfect storm during the recession."
It will be a tough task for his successor.
"That hole was so deep," he said. "It's going to take a long time to dig out of that hole."
At least during the next few months, that will be a job for information services manager Bill DeJarnette. Mayor Laurel Prussing said that DeJarnette, a certified public accountant, will be named acting comptroller at least through the end of the city's fiscal year in June.
Ron Eldridge said he will stick around on a part-time basis to help with the transition.
Other than that, he sees some golf, fishing and "the snowbird thing" in the future for himself and his wife.