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New finance boss a fan of numbers, cricket

April 15th | Jim Paulin, The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman Print this article   Email this article  

Nerahoo Hemraj, Unalaska's new finance director, loves his job with its "stewardship responsibility." And he's also a fan of the game of cricket. His career in financial management brought him to the Aleutians in his latest "journey" from his birth in British Guyana in 1948, where he had a passion for a game involving a ball and bat, yet quite different from American baseball.

Now, it looks like he might have a chance to bring cricket to the nation's top fishing port, and players can even wear Carhartts or blue jeans, although he'd greatly prefer they be "properly attired" in smart white uniforms.

"This is the sport of kings," he said last week in his office in Unalaska City Hall. "Part of it is, you have to be dressed for the game."

Hemraj said he'd love to help get cricket going in Unalaska, but wondered if there was any equipment in town, such as wickets, balls, bats, and especially, white uniforms.

Not a problem, said Nick Cron, operations manager for the Unalaska Department of Parks, Culture and Recreation. "We would love to get involved," he said Monday. And while PCR doesn't have any cricket gear now, the city department could certainly acquire some, he said.

Hemraj was raised in South America, where his family had lived for more than a century after migrating from India in the 1830s. They were farmers, who worked their way up to owning their own rice farm. Agriculture, though, was not his calling.

In 1968, he moved to New York City, where he earned a bachelors degree in finance from Long Island University, and from the same school in Brooklyn, a masters of business administration, and a masters of degree in accounting, with honors, he said.

Upon completing his education, he got a job on Wall Street, the hub of the nation's finance sector, working as an auditor at the firms of Hill Thompson, and then U.S. Trust Company. And the Big Apple provided not only a career opportunity, but facilities for his favorite sport. He said it's not hard to find cricket games in city parks in NYC, the home of numerous British Commonwealth transplants.

After a few years in the private sector, he moved on to a long career watching over the money of numerous local governments from one side of the continent to the other, with his mind always on the job.

"You've got to live it,you've got to sleep it, you've got to dream it. You have to be very proactive about what's happening on the horizon."

He worked for nine years for Palm Beach County in south Florida, in Boynton Beach. His next job wasn't too far away, a few miles up the road in the Atlantic coastal area. He spent a year as the finance director for the city government of Lake Wirth. That town is also the name of a body of water, a lagoon between a barrier island and the mainland. The barrier island is between the sea to the east, and the lake to the west less than a mile away. That barrier island is the home of President Donald Trump's mansion and private club Mar a Lago, meaning sea to lake in Spanish. Trump, now a federal employee, flys down there regularly from Washington D.C.. That was Hemraj's next stop in the public sector, not as an employee of Uncle Sam, but yet for a very close bureaucratic relative.

In Washington, he worked for three years for the local government of the District of Columbia, which answers directly to the U.S. Congress, in a relationship Hemraj called "a very complex structure." The district provides the services typically provided bv city and state governments.

The next career move was 'mar to mar,' you might say in Spanish, taking him from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He was recruited to work in Monterey County in California, where he worked for eight years as a chief deputy auditor and also as a deputy tax collector.

Later, he spent around nine years as a consultant. And now, the father of two grown children is working in the Aleutian Islands community,managing its wealth of fisheries revenues. He started work in October, and describes the city's finances as "excellent," and he enjoys working for City Manager David Martinson. "His leadership style is very positive."

"I manage the lifeblood of an organization. If that's not managed strategically, that's what separates success from failure," said Hemraj, who worries that the public looks at financial managers as somber bean counters.

"People look at us finance folks like we don't have a sense of humor. Of course we do." he said. Yet it is a very serious job, entrusted to "protect hard-earned dollars."

"Finance as it is, it is what it is. Every government or entity has its own opportunities."

Jim Paulin can be reached at jpaulin@reportalaska.com

 

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