BRADENTON, Fla. - After 31 years with Florida's largest county, Miami-Dade Countyfinance director Rachel Baum is throwing in her "number 2 pencil and the green ledger paper for some rest, relaxation and travel," she said in a retirement letter to county officials.

Baum served in many positions including auditor, controller, and finance director the last 12 years.

"Thanks to her leadership," said a memo from county manager George Burgess on Jan. 22, "the county has successfully implemented upgrades to the general ledger system, issued bonds to fund various capital projects, experienced rating agency upgrades, and developed new accounting policies, among others."

Burgess noted that recently, due to her "astute monitoring of the county's investments," Baum successfully withdrew all $512 million of the county's funds from the state-run Local Government Investment Pool just days before officials froze withdrawals in late November. The pool, which experienced a run of withdrawals in response to investments related to subprime mortgages, still imposes restrictions on withdrawals.

"She's always the consummate professional," said long-time Florida analyst John Incorvaiaat Moody's Investors Service, who has worked with Baum all 12 years she served as finance director. "She's a pleasure to deal with."

Baum said she plans to retire June 30, but her final day at work will be flexible and dependent on the process for finding her replacement.

"The county manager will be doing a national search," she said in an email. Details about how the search would be conducted were not immediately available.

According to the county's human resources department, the finance director's salary ranges from $121,362 to $214,285.

The director's responsibilities include formulating county financial policy, authorizing and approving the development of financial systems, directing and monitoring the investment of public funds, structuring long- and short-term debt and financial plans, and overseeing county general accounting activities.

Miami-Dade County investments include its surplus-funds portfolio, which has a daily average exceeding $1.1 billion. The county had approximately $7.8 billion of principal long-term debt outstanding as of Sept. 30, 2006. Its general obligation rating is Aa3 fromMoody's and AA-minus from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's.

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