Michael Townsend appointed as new administrator

October 28, 2019

Public Safety Personnel Retirement System
State of Arizona
October 28, 2019

Contact: Christian Palmer
Phone: 602-296-3736

Michael Townsend appointed as new administrator
Employers and member groups praise appointment

PHOENIX – The state’s Public Safety Personnel Retirement System Board of Trustees appointed Michael Townsend to lead its agency, which provides retirement benefits to Arizona’s first responders, corrections officers, judges and elected officials.

Townsend, a certified public accountant, has served as the deputy county manager of Coconino County since 2007 and has led policy initiatives that increased the county’s public safety pension funded status to more than 70 percent from 25 percent. Under Townsend’s tenure, the county has also fully funded its pension liabilities for corrections officers.

“Michael Townsend has the experience and reputation that we were looking for to improve all aspects of our operations and to lead PSPRS’ return to financial health,” said Board Chairman Will Buividas. “He’s worked under a governing board and led staff to carry out board goals, and he’s uniquely positioned and qualified to help employers understand and reduce their unfunded pension liabilities.”

Townsend is an Arizona native who has spent 25 years working for local governments. From 2004 to 2012, he served as the political subdivision representative on the civilian Arizona State Retirement System board and developed a deep interest in public pensions.

“I’m a firm believer in defined benefit plans and I’m looking forward to helping make PSPRS better for members, employers, local boards and taxpayers,” said Townsend. “The Board of Trustees and staff are engaged and committed to improving PSPRS. This is exactly the type of organization I want to be a part of.”

The position of PSPRS administrator has been held on an interim basis since April by Bret Parke, the system’s assistant administrator and general counsel. Under Parke’s interim administrator tenure, PSPRS has implemented agile project management practices and made significant human resource policy upgrades.

“Bret Parke has really laid the foundation to help PSPRS improve its functions and services across the board,” said Buividas. “His contributions have not gone unnoticed by the board and he’ll continue to serve and improve our agency.”

PSPRS-managed plan stakeholders applauded the board’s appointment of Townsend, who has been a leading figure in public pension discussions with government officials and taxpayers.

  • Joe Clure, executive director of the Arizona Police Association: “PSPRS and its Board have made many positive changes on the financial side over the past few years. Mike Townsend is the final piece of the puzzle: A new administrator with CEO and CFO experience, someone with a comprehensive understanding of how to steward taxpayer dollars and the millions in retirement funds contributed by police officers all over Arizona. In a sentence, Mike is a terrific hire.”
  • Bryan Jeffries, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona: “Proactive. That’s the reputation Mike Townsend developed over many years in Coconino County, where he led the pension plan there back to sustainability and alleviated much of the pressure on the county’s public safety budget. As firefighters, we depend on PSPRS to protect the future of our families and to help us protect the communities and families we serve. Mike Townsend has the right set of skills to lead the agency. We look forward to working with him for years to come.”
  • Sean Mattson, president and executive director of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police“Mike Townsend is an outstanding choice to lead PSPRS as someone who can bring stability and continue to guide the agency along the path to financial good health. Arizona’s retired and active police officers have our futures on the line with PSPRS and Mike is the experienced, steady hand we need to protect our families, our retirements and the financial interests of our employers and the taxpayers we serve.”
  • Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities & Towns“We are delighted with the decision by the PSPRS Board of Trustees to hire Michael Townsend as the next system administrator of PSPRS. Mike has an excellent understanding of the pension system and the needs of both employers and beneficiaries. He has the management experience and leadership characteristics that engender trust from all stakeholders. We look forward to working cooperatively with him to assure the PSPRS system is efficient, reliable and sustainable.”
  • Craig Sullivan, executive director of the County Supervisors Association of Arizona“CSA is very pleased to see the appointment of Mike Townsend as the new PSPRS Administrator. He has the technical background and leadership skills necessary to improve system transparency, enhance data driven decision-making and forge stronger partnerships with state and local governments to move the PSPRS system to a more sustainable path. Mike is a great fit for the post and we look forward to working with him.”
The PSPRS trust combined with the Corrections Officers Retirement Plan (CORP) and the Elected Officials Retirement Plan (EORP) is valued at roughly $10.5 billion and provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to approximately 60,000 retired and active members.

PSPRS is governed by a nine-member board consisting of four members of PSPRS-managed retirement plans and five civilians that meet stringent requirements for financial, investment and business expertise. 

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