By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Brian Runion has been the assistant superintendent for budget and finance with Rutherford County Schools since July after previously serving as the accounting manager within the department.
He’s also a veteran of the U.S. Navy and enlisted, at the age of 28, after completing a finance degree from Middle Tennessee State University.
He completed basic training in the Chicago – Great Lakes area and completed A School in Meridian, Mississippi, before being assigned to the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Question: What made you join the Navy?
Answer: The main reason at the time is that I had just graduated MTSU and I had quite a bit of school debt. I wasn’t getting any great jobs offers at the time, I had that debt and I wanted to get it paid down as quickly as I could. I knew the military offered student repayment loans, and so I checked into it. Originally I was looking to go into the Air Force but they didn’t have the amount to pay off that the Navy offered.
Q: Where did you go to high school?
A: I went to a small town school in East Tennessee, in Charleston, Tennessee, in Bradley County which is just above Cleveland. The whole high school had maybe 300-350 kids in it, called Charleston High School but it’s now known as Walker Valley. It merged in with a couple of other schools in Bradley County and became Walker Valley High.
Q: What brought you to MTSU?
A: Just to get away. I guess I was one of those adventurous kind of people, I didn’t want to be the cliche and stay in the same town. … I wanted to get out plus I knew there was more opportunity outside so that’s what I went after. MTSU was not hours and hours away, but it was a couple hours away so I was still far enough away where I could be away from my parents and learn some responsibility.
Q: What was your role on the U.S.S. Enterprise?
A: I was a store keeper (in the supply department), that was my rate. Briefly after that, they merged with postal clerks, and we became logistics specialists. My job on the ship, I became the finance manager over the U.S.S. Enterprise. So I basically dealt with a 90-plus million dollar budget every year, which is a little bit different that what we have here in the school systems. You either use the money or you lose it. There’s no such thing as carrying it over. Most likely, if you don’t use much in the current fiscal year, you don’t get as much the next fiscal year. It’s a use it or lose it situation. I had 3,500-plus sailors when we were in port. When we were deployed, there was close to 5,000.
Q: Many people may be surprised to know that individual ships have their own finance department.
A: It’s funny because it falls within the supply department, but really and honestly, it makes a lot of sense because there the ones who are issuing out all the supplies, which they have to purchase.
Q: So you got to see the world?
A: I did two deployments. We spent most of our time in the Mediterranean Sea doing figure eights dealing with some pirate issues and some other small-time combat stuff. It wasn’t anything real big. But I got to see stuff that most people don’t ever get to see. If you’ve ever got to see an airshow from an aircraft carrier, it puts things in a different perspective. Don’t get me wrong, the Blue Angels show up here in Smyrna is cool, but when you actually see aircraft that you actually use and see what they can do, you know, flying over your ship, it’s pretty cool.
Q: How long were you in the Navy?
A: Four years, from 2008 to 2012.
Q: When you left the Navy, how did you get into school finance?
A: I won’t take anything for my time in the Navy because it taught me a lot, but I was ready to get back to the civilian-side of things. You know, I think the difference between an 18-year-old going in and a 28-year-old going in — I was 28 when I went in — is just the fact that an 18-year-old still needs a lot of structure. They haven’t lived life as much as a 28-year-old has. … That was one of my main reasons for wanting to get out.
After I got out, I took about six months off to catch my breath and explore my options. I actually was going to work for Wal-Mart in South Carolina (for a finance position). But then the Tennessee Department of Education came calling, and it was closer to home. They hired me on as their fiscal consultant for the South-Central Region here in Middle Tennessee. I worked for them for seven years. I had a range of between 15 and 30 districts, depending on how they realigned every couple of years. I had pretty much hit my level of where I was going to be with them unless somebody left so the position for Marshall County Schools to be their finance director became available. I ended up going to work for them and then the accounting manager position opened up here.
Q: What is your favorite part about working here?
A: The relationships I’ve built with not only people here in my department but other departments, as well. And also making sure that everybody is able to get what they need — I don’t know if they always get what they want — but get what they need in order to provide for the kids of Rutherford County, and also being able to provide that accountability to the taxpayers of Rutherford County.