After three decades with the city of Upper Arlington, including the last 21 years as finance director, Cathe Armstrong will call it a career next month.

After three decades with the city of Upper Arlington, including the last 21 years as finance director, Cathe Armstrong will call it a career next month.

Establishing what's professionally recognized as "an exceptional degree of creditworthiness," continuing a more than two-decade streak of distinguished accounting as determined by the Ohio Auditor's Office and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ohio Government Finance Officers Association are among the highlights of a 30-year career that will come to an end Jan. 31.

Armstrong, who joined the city in December 1986 and was promoted to finance director in 1995, has decided that will be her final day.

"I wanted to complete 30 years," Armstrong said. "I do have four grandchildren -- two are here and two are in Phoenix.

"They're all 2 and under, and I'm growing very fond of being a grandparent."

It's been a pleasant, if unexpected, ride for Armstrong.

She and her staff helped the city obtain an AAA credit rating from Moody's and S&P Global in 2007, and they've maintained it since. It's the top credit rating provided by the agencies.

Armstrong also has been either part of or the leader of a team in the finance division that's earned the GFOA's Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 28 consecutive years, as well as the GFOA Award for Achievement for the Popular Annual Finance Report every year since it was established in 2005.

Additionally, the division has been recognized for excellence in financial reporting every year since 1994, and she was the city of Upper Arlington's Employee of the Year in 2014.

She's had a "wonderful time" since joining the city, Armstrong said, but a career in public service was hardly an aspiration when she joined the UA team.

"When I joined the city, I had never thought about government work," Armstrong said. "I thought I was going to go work for a CPA (certified public accountant) firm.

"When I came here, I was so impressed with the people and community and administration that I decided it was a good fit. Those feelings never went away."

During her tenure, Armstrong has seen three different city managers lead Upper Arlington and scores of city council members serve and depart.

She credited her first city manager, Rich Hill, for hiring her and having the faith to promote her to finance director.

She said she was tested at her very first council meeting as director, when a public services official asked her to recommend hiring people to perform recycling services an outside company had offered for free.

"Sometimes, you don't make friends on the inside," Armstrong said. "But it's been my duty as finance director to report our financial position and to look at things from a business sense, rather than a political one.

"I've certainly seen my share of controversy, and we've had good economic times and bad -- both of which had their challenges. I'm just glad I stumbled across this place."

Armstrong called the city's AAA bond ratings, received after her office established a debt policy in 2004, one of her proudest professional achievements. She said that feat and all of her office's awards were enabled by her staff "doing their jobs and being ethical about it."

She received the GFOA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 after being nominated by Columbus City Auditor Hugh Dorrian, Worthington City Schools Treasurer Jeff McCuen and David Varda, a former Upper Arlington mayor, executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and current chief financial officer for META Solutions.

At that time, Dorrian said she has "served with distinction" and "her skills and passion for excellence are manifest in the high-quality (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports) and bond ratings her city has received during her years of leadership." McCuen lauded Armstrong's "honesty, integrity and willingness to help others," and Varda said she is "the ultimate professional and her devotion to the government finance position is without equal in Ohio."

Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton last week echoed those commendations.

"Cathe leaves lasting tributes to her efforts, including the nine consecutive years of AAA bond ratings and the financial transparency for which her department has become known," Staton said. "The city has been blessed to have a finance professional serve with such distinction for so long.

"She will be hard to replace and will be missed as a professional and a colleague."

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