How much money you spend at Wal-Mart keeps Morgan Chegwidden awake at night.
As the City of San Angelo’s budget manager (and a self-diagnosed Type A personality), Chegwidden sees and obsesses over the direct link between sales tax collections and the service her peers in the public sector can provide.
A dip in the local economy can mean fewer street repairs, less sprucing of parks and no pay raises for police officers.
The irony is Chegwidden, 35, was wooed by the steadiness of a government job. Instead, her career is reflected in the title of a book she’s reading in her MBA studies: “The Price of Government – Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis.”
“That’s local government,” Chegwidden said, “all day, every day. There will never be a day when we’re done funding water supply or street maintenance. It’s a constant battle.”
Painfully introverted as a girl growing up in Galveston, Chegwidden’s mother nudged her into serving as a 10-year-old docent in the island’s historic homes tour. She still remembers her lines: “Watch your step,” and, eventually, “Note the original wainscoting in the kitchen.” Her mom later volunteered her daughter as a hospital candy-striper.
Chegwidden attended Angelo State University to be away from home but close to her grandmother, who lives here. She earned a degree in finance, but says she’s not terribly “financy.” The once-shy girl chalks up her seemingly encyclopedic recall of details in the city’s $130 million budget to the fact she’s more people-oriented.
“I know quick facts about the budget that are of interest to everybody,” she said.
Chegwidden has also contributed to nine straight budget awards from the Government Finance Officers Association and five financial transparency awards from the state comptroller.
Through her work, Chegwidden grew concerned about unwanted pets swamping the city’s animal shelter. She and her husband Jason have fostered about 30 dogs in their home, including Bobby. The Chegwiddens agreed to foster the black-and-white mutt after he proved a misfit in two other homes. He’s not going anywhere.
Because humans domesticated dogs, she explained, “we have a responsibility to care for what we created.”
Chegwidden also champions her colleagues’ well-being. She chairs the City’s Working on Wellness committee, which assesses city employees personal health risks and nudges them toward addressing those. That involves healthy motivational challenges related to, for instance, weight, sleep, exercise and water consumption.
She points to one colleague lost more than 40 pounds after learning of a blood sugar imbalance.
“She’s going to retire in better health than she’s been in the last 10 years,” Chegwidden said.
Chegwidden said her own health – her spiritual health – has improved as she and her husband have devoted more of themselves to Glen Meadows Baptist Church’s ministries.
“I don’t think there is a common thread in the things that move me,” she said. “It runs the gamut. If it sounds interesting, if it strikes a chord with me, I like to tackle it and get involved.”