Covington’s Finance Director retiring

Muhammed Owusu on his 2017 pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca.

Owusu moving back to Virginia to be with wife, family

COVINGTON, Ky. – A month shy of his fourth anniversary with the City of Covington, Finance Director Muhammed Owusu is returning home to Virginia – not to take another job but to retire.

“It’s time to hang up my boots,” Owusu said. “I’m tired.”

Almost every other weekend for those four years, Owusu has been making the thousand-mile round trip to Virginia to see his wife, Habiba, who stayed behind in her own job. But now she too has retired, and Owusu, almost 67, said he’s feeling the pull of family.

He said he plans to see his four children and seven grandchildren more (they all live in Virginia) and to take longer visits to his native Ghana. He came to the United States when he was 25 and has been going to school or working here for 42 years – over 30 of those years in finance, including stints at public agencies in New York, Virginia, and Washington DC.

“Covington is a great place to work, seriously,” Owusu said. “My staff, my colleagues. I got up every morning and I felt good about coming to work. There are not a lot of places where you can say that.”

Owusu’s last day at the City is today.

City Manager Ken Smith said Covington hoped to fill the vacant position, posted HERE, as soon as possible and that Assistant Finance Director Jerome Heist would serve as interim director for the time being.

“I hate to see Muhammed go,” said Smith, who joined the City in 2018 within weeks of Owusu. “He’s just an all-around good guy who’s been fun to work with, and his leadership has helped put the Finance Department and the City’s finances on solid footing.”

Since Owusu’s arrival, City news releases have documented a steady array of changes in a Department that had been decimated by staff cuts in the wake of the 2008-09 recession and by a 2014 embezzlement case. Those changes since Owusu’s arrival included:

  • Two upgrades in two years in the City’s bond rating, courtesy of Moody’s Investors Service.
  • The addition of multi-year financial planning to go with the annual fiscal year budget.
  • Quarterly presentations and monthly written reports updating the Board of Commissioners about the City’s budget.
  • Cleaner audits.
  • And new, expanded, and/or modernized policies related to investments, debt management, fund balances, and financial management, plus a 49-page Accounting Policies and Procedures Manual.

Owusu said he enjoyed his relationships in the office and watching the support from the community grow. “There’s a buzz going on in Covington,” he said. “You can feel it. And it was good to be a part of it.”

Colleagues said they will miss Owusu’s personality and presence, as well as his exquisite (and blisteringly hot) homemade sauces, marinades, and salsas that sneer at the Scoville Scale.

“City Hall is about to get a little emptier, and a lot smaller,” said Dan Hassert, who was hired by Covington in the same month as Owusu and Smith and directs the City’s communications.

“I never talked to Muhammed without learning something, whether it was about budgeting, philosophy, Ahmadiyya Muslim beliefs, or the Twi language,” Hassert said. “He’s just a brilliant guy, and humble at the same time. For years, he had the Diogenes quote about ignorance (‘I know nothing, except the fact of my ignorance’) written on his Dry Erase board, staring at him every day. That’s what guided him. You know, we could all use a little of his mentality.”

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