Almanac

News - December 14, 2011

Treasurer Lee Buffington dies at 81

Lee Buffington, San Mateo County long-time treasurer and tax collector and a resident of Menlo Park, died Wednesday, Dec. 7, according to Sandie Arnott, who succeeded him in that office. He was 81.

Mr. Buffington headed the treasurer's office for nearly 25 years. In 2009, he decided not to seek a seventh term. At the time of his retirement in January 2011, the office had 60 employees.

Despite the 2008 fiasco that saw a loss of $155 million in investments with Lehman Brothers, Mr. Buffington said he's enjoyed the challenges of the job, which includes collecting property taxes, managing the county investment pool, and acting as a bank for the county's 26 school districts.

"Lehman was a great big disappointment for us, but we weren't the only ones (who lost money)," he told The Almanac.

Mr. Buffington said he had no inkling that he'd remain in the job such a long time.

"The only reason I took the job initially was that I needed health insurance. My wife was terminally ill," he said. "I thought I'd get that and get out, but then I stuck around for a while."

During his quarter-century tenure, the treasurer's office evolved from a completely manual operation to the most automated in the state, Mr. Buffington said.

"It's the variety that keeps you going. There are different kinds of problems every day," he said in an Almanac interview. "It's never boring, I'll tell you that."

At his request, there will be no services.

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