November 10, 2022
By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Brian Runion has served as the assistant superintendent of Rutherford County Schools Budget and Finance since July, having previously served as chief accounting officer with the department.
He is also a United States Navy veteran and enlisted at age 28 after earning a degree in finance from Middle Tennessee State University.
He received basic training in the Chicago-Great Lakes area and completed school in Meridian, Mississippi, before being assigned to the USS Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
Question: What prompted you to join the Navy?
Answer: The main reason at the time was that I had just graduated from MTSU and had a lot of school debt. I wasn’t getting any great job offers at the time, I had this debt and wanted to pay it off as soon as possible. I knew the military offered student repayment loans, so I checked. I was originally looking to get into the Air Force, but they didn’t have the amount to pay that the Navy offered.
Q: Where did you go to high school?
A: I went to school in a small town in eastern Tennessee, Charleston, Tennessee, in Bradley County, just above Cleveland. The entire high school had perhaps 300 to 350 children, called Charleston High School, but it is now known as Walker Valley. It merged with a few other Bradley County schools to become Walker Valley High.
Q: What brought you to MTSU?
A: Just to get away. I guess I was one of those adventurous people, I didn’t want to be the cliché and stay in the same town. … I wanted out and I knew there were more opportunities outside, so that’s what I was looking for. MTSU wasn’t hours and hours away, but it was a few hours away, so I was still far enough away that I could be away from my parents and learn some responsibility.
Q: What was your role on the USS Enterprise?
A: I was a storekeeper (in the supply department), that was my rate. Soon after, they merged with postal workers and we became logistics specialists. My job on the ship, I became the CFO of the USS Enterprise. So I basically managed a budget of over $90 million every year, which is a little different from what we have here in the school systems. Either you use the money or you lose it. There’s nothing like postponing it. Most likely, if you don’t use a lot in the current fiscal year, you won’t have as much in the next fiscal year. It is a use or lose situation. I had over 3,500 sailors when we were in port. When we were deployed, we were almost 5,000.
Q: Many people might be surprised to learn that each ship has its own finance department.
A: It’s funny because it falls under the supply department, but really and honestly, it makes a lot of sense because they are the ones who distribute all the supplies they have to buy.
Q: So you have to see the world?
A: I did two deployments. We spent most of our time in the Mediterranean doing figure eights dealing with pirate issues and other small-scale combat stuff. It wasn’t much. But I was able to see things that most people never see. If you’ve ever seen an air show from an aircraft carrier, this puts things in a different light. Don’t get me wrong, the Blue Angels are showing up here in Smyrna, that’s cool, but when you see planes that you actually use and see what they can do, you know, fly above your ship , that’s pretty cool.
Q: How long have you been in the Navy?
A: Four years, from 2008 to 2012.
Q: When you left the Navy, how did you get into academic finance?
A: I won’t take anything for my time in the Navy because it taught me a lot, but I was ready to go back to the civilian side of things. You know, I think the difference between an 18-year-old and a 28-year-old — I was 28 when I came in — is just the fact that an 18-year-old still needs a lot of structure. They haven’t lived as long as a 28-year-old man. … That was one of the main reasons I wanted out.
After my release, I took about six months off to catch my breath and explore my options. I was actually going to work for Wal-Mart in South Carolina (for a finance position). But then the Tennessee Department of Education called, and it was closer to home. They hired me as a tax consultant for the south-central region here in central Tennessee. I worked for them for seven years. I had a range of between 15 and 30 districts, depending on how they realigned every two years. I had pretty much reached my level where I was going to be with them unless someone left, so the Marshall County Schools CFO position became available. I ended up going to work for them, and then the accounting manager position opened up here.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working here?
A: The relationships that I have established not only with people in my department, but also with other departments. And also making sure everyone is able to get what they need – I don’t know if they always get what they want – but get what they need to support the children of the Rutherford County, and also to be able to provide that accountability to the taxpayers of Rutherford County.