Student Profile

David Sunstrom ‘85

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Recognizing his “distinguished career in public sector finance and auditing” and his “strong commitment to serving citizens through transparency in financial reporting,” the Financial Accounting Foundation has named alumnus David E. Sundstrom ’85 to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Based in Norwalk, Conn., GASB is an independent, not-for-profit organization that establishes and improves neutral accounting standards for nearly 90,000 state and local governments, as well as in health care and higher education. “While it cannot direct government’s behavior, GASB can be quite influential,” said Sundstrom.

Sundstrom began his five-year term on July 1. It’s a weighty commitment: the seven-member board meets for three days every six weeks, and several times a year with the Government Accounting Standards Advisory Council. To prepare for his first meeting, Sundstrom read more than 2,500 pages of materials.

Sundstrom credits his father, an auditor for the University of California system, with inspiring him to a career in the public sector. Following a nine-year stint as an audit manager at UC Davis and seven years as the California State University system’s auditor, Sundstrom moved into local government. He was appointed Orange County, California’s first director of internal audit in 1995, charged with returning the county to solvency in the wake of its 1994 bankruptcy.

Today, as the county’s elected auditor-controller, Sundstrom manages a 430-member staff, a $6.5 billion budget and a $6.3 billion investment pool. He prides himself on his watchdog reputation: one recent project secured $500 million in the county’s coffers “by keeping us out of a pension obligation bond scheme,” he said. Another project saved $1.5 billion in retiree medical costs.

But the current economy has brought “multiple challenges,” Sundstrom acknowledged. Budget cuts forced furloughs and consequent program cuts in the 3,500-staff member Social Services Department and saw the county scrambling for letter of credit and bond facilities.

“While this caused a lot of anxiety, we came out of it whole,” he said. Most recently, an October 16 article in the Wall Street Journal detailed the success of Orange County’s stay-local strategy by sticking with its own more conservative pension fund, which outperformed the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Sundstrom was honored with the GSM Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005. “The GSM taught me the value of collaboration, to work effectively under pressure, balance my priorities and fit an incredible amount of personal production into very little time,” he said.

A generous volunteer, Sundstrom serves as the treasurer of Orange Rotary, and of a foundation that provides scholarships to music students. He sits on Orange County United Way’s finance committee; chairs the Citizen’s Oversight Committee for transportation projects; and holds leadership positions in several California and national professional organizations and county fiscal oversight committees.

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