‘Fitz’ manages the green for the maroon and gold

Richard Pfutzenreuter has an office in Morrill Hall with a window air conditioner, a picture of him with Jesse Ventura – whom he worked for briefly – and a painting on loan from the Weisman Art Museum.

He said he recently looked up its price.

Pfutzenreuter found out it’s worth about $100,000, and he had no idea.

“I’m sending it back,” he said. “I’m cheap.” Plus, he’s worried about security.

But this is probably a good trait for one of the most powerful men at the University – the man who controls all the money.

He is commonly referred to as “Fitz” by his colleagues and friends, but his casual nickname is much different then his title: vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer.

Pfutzenreuter said he is a homegrown Minnesotan. He grew up in St. Paul near Como Park.

His father was a bricklayer. He worked with his father during college for three days but quit and became a lifeguard instead.

Pfutzenreuter went to Hamline University, where he swam for the school’s team and earned a philosophy degree.

He said he doesn’t know how he ended up in money.

After college, Pfutzenreuter started at the Minnesota Highway Department and made it to the Minnesota House of Representatives fiscal staff. He moved up to become chief fiscal analyst.

In 1992, Pfutzenreuter took an opportunity to work at the University.

“I’ve never had a specific career path, just opportunities,” he said.

That’s fitting, since his job isn’t always specific either.

One day he’ll be working on the marching band, the next athletics. Next will be the Carlson School of Management, and then it’s the journalism school, he said.

It’s this variety of activities that keeps him interested and doing what he’s doing.

The main task of the job is solving financial problems that arise throughout all University campuses, he said. The system is a nearly $3 billion operation.

He said he isn’t always doing the math equations, but he is the guy who has to sell the numbers to President Bob Bruininks, the Legislature and the Board of Regents. He also has to know what the numbers mean for the future.

Doing every task of his three positions would be impossible, Pfutzenreuter said. “I’d be in an insane asylum.”

People can think of his task as a spreadsheet, he said. Documenting how much money is coming in and to where it is going means there would be over 40,000 cells on that spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet has salaries, supplies, equipment and every budget for every department, system-wide, he said.

“Can I control what goes on in every cell?” he said. “No.” That’s where his support staff comes in.

Pfutzenreuter said he lets his staff do their work without looking over their shoulders constantly, but he’s always listening to any problems that come up.

“I have to worry,” he said. The staff is dealing with billions of dollars of investments.

Pfutzenreuter said he worries about the University’s assets and financial solidarity.

But people who know him don’t think of him as a nervous wreck.

Mike Berthelsen, associate vice president of facilities management, said Pfutzenreuter has the ability to see the end result and the steps to get there at the beginning of any project.

“He loves solving problems,” he said.

Berthelsen said he first met Pfutzenreuter while he was a page in the Minnesota Legislature.

He said he could tell then that “Fitz was always a deal broker.”

After he graduated from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Berthelsen got a job working for Pfutzenreuter at the state capitol.

“I loved working for Fitz,” Berthelsen said.

Fitz is honest, backs up his employees and puts people in positions where they can get things done, Berthelsen said.

He added that Pfutzenreuter is pretty gentle if someone makes a mistake.

When he left the Legislature and came to the University, Pfutzenreuter brought some of his staff with him, Berthelsen said. Four of Pfutzenreuter’s staffers got jobs at the University, Berthelsen included.

“We said (Fitz) was lonely and didn’t have friends, so he had to hire friends,” Berthelsen said.

But he can’t be everyone’s friend all the time, because Pfutzenreuter is held accountable for decisions some don’t like.

He said when he started at the University, the payroll system was on multiple pay periods and he wanted to unify the system, but there was a lot of resistance.

Pfutzenreuter said an astronomy professor once said, “I can keep track of a billion stars, why can’t you keep track of multiple payrolls?”

But after he explained himself to the professor, they came to an understanding, he said.

“(Anyone) can disagree, but I don’t have patience if they disagree without the facts,” Pfutzenreuter said.

Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the Academic Health Center, said he has worked with Pfutzenreuter on a lot of projects since he came to the University.

The two have worked on budgets together and have gone to the Legislature many times, Cerra said.

“We don’t always agree and that’s the way it should be,” he said.

Still, they have produced about $300 million in capital projects for the University, Cerra said.

Pfutzenreuter has two sons currently attending the University and he is paying their tuition.

He said he has also seen almost every $600 housing unit in Dinkytown and he’s “not impressed.”

He said it gives him an interesting insight into the whole University system.

“I have a pretty clear idea of every side of the (college) equation,” Pfutzenreuter said.

But, even the second-most powerful man on the University campus needs time away from campus.

Pfutzenreuter enjoys being at his cabin, or fishing in Alaska with a couple college friends who live in Anchorage.

When asked about the biggest fish he ever caught, Pfutzenreuter said he just got back from Alaska where he caught a 30-pound king salmon. He went over to his desk and pulled out a cell phone picture to prove it.