Top 40 Under 40 2017: Christopher Dobson

Sept. 15, 2017
Christopher Dobson, Vice President of Finance, Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority
  • One word to describe yourself: Proactive
  • Alma Mater: SUNY Fredonia and Simon Business School at the University of Rochester
  • Favorite book: “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss
  • Favorite TV show: "NCIS"
  • Favorite movie: "National Lampoons Christmas Vacation"
  • Favorite hobby(ies): Working Out/Running, hanging with the family, and rooting for the Buffalo Bills
  • Fun fact: Each year he travels to a different major league baseball park with a goal to visit them all. 
  • What is your favorite transit system (outside of the one you work for or have worked for!) and why?: Any system that has rail and has convenient service from the Airport (including) Chicago, Denver and Portland.

Christopher Dobson currently serves the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority as the vice president of finance where he reports directly to the chief financial officer and is responsible for oversight of many critical financial functions. These include the Operating and Capital Budget Planning & Monitoring, Performance Measurement & Analytics, Grants, and Project Management functions. Starting with the Authority as a Budget Technician in 2003, Dobson eagerly began his quest to learn the uniqueness of the public transit industry and demonstrate his passion to improve the financial strength of the Authority. His hard work and commitment was recognized early on. In 2005, he was promoted to a budget analyst where he took ownership of many revenue and cost center budget development and forecasts. In this capacity, Dobson implemented over fifty budget analysis enhancements which provided improved financial projections. Many of these enhancements are still used today.

During this time, he was also the lead architect in the development of the Authority’s first ever Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), which was awarded the GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The CAFR continues to be produced utilizing much of the same structure. In late 2006, Dobson was asked to take on the additional responsibility of leading the development of the 2007-2008 Operating and Capital Budgets. Demonstrating his commitment and desire to continually challenge himself, Dobson excelled in this opportunity and it resulted in his promotion to budget manager — a position he held from April 2007 to March 2011. In addition to overseeing the development of the $80 million Operating Budget and $20 million Capital Budget, Dobson was asked to lead the preparation of the Authority’s Annual Comprehensive Plan. This plan not only contained the annual budget but the strategies, initiatives, and measurements to define success.

In 2011, Dobson was promoted to director of finance which added oversight of the Accounting function to his responsibilities. After assessing the structure and talents of the department he thoughtfully re-organized roles providing for cross-training development opportunities of the staff and allowed for better succession planning. In this role he developed a Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan tracking and forecast tool while re-engineering the capital planning process to include cross organizational participation. Business partnership financial models were improved to provide insight into incremental costs, and numerous regulatory reporting processes were streamlined to allow for the reallocation of time to other value added tasks. In July 2012, Dobson was promoted to vice president of finance and led the Authorities Finances during a 7 month interim CFO search period. During this time Dobson assumed all responsibilities performed by the CFO including monthly financial presentations to the Board of Commissioners. In his current role, Dobson is a fiduciary on four Authority-sponsored defined benefit pension plans and he has been intimately involved in several large scale projects. For example, Dobson oversaw the replacement of a 10-year-old Financial Software Reporting Platform with an Enterprise Wide System, coordinated the development and implementation of Authority-wide dashboard reporting, and is currently implementing a multi-million Enterprise Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Solution.

"Every day there is a challenge, both anticipated and unanticipated. Along with the variety of the work from day to day. One day we might be trying to figure out the cost of providing new service to a prospective business partner and the next I may be working on a complex strategic initiatives such as our enterprise data warehouse and business intelligence tool keeping it on schedule. Here locally we are experiencing some exciting and interesting times in transit. We are embarking on a re-imagining of our system to take advantage of the many mobility options and address declining ridership. Recently Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) have been approved to operate in upstate New York, we are starting a Vanpool program and participating in a city led Bike Share initiative. We are Purchasing Electric Buses and implementing smart cards and mobile ticketing."

"I have been fortunate to work with great leaders and mentors from past to present CEO’s and CFO’s. RTS has provided an environment where one can thrive. They give you the tools and freedom to be successful. Successes are celebrated and mistakes are learned from. Our Vision is to be the preferred transportation choice. That bold vision is exciting and something you can really get behind. We have a real passion to serve our customers and community. We are always circling back to the question; how is RTS making it easy for the customer to enjoy the journey?"

"Put the company and your co-workers before yourself and things will work out. Always work hard and keep a positive attitude, it’s contagious."