On Monday, August 12, 2013, during a retirement luncheon for City of Opa-locka Finance Director Dr. Ezekiel O. Orji, Dance troop “Umu-Oma” opened with a celebratory praise performance, during a musical tribute to the guest of honor who migrated from Nigeria to America in 1974 to further his education and secure a better life for himself, his mother and his 10 siblings.
Dr. Orji, known by most in his professional life as “Zeke,” obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting, with the highest honor (magna cum laudi) from Texas Southern University, before earning a MBA and a PHD in financial management at the University of Houston, and later becoming a Certified Public Accountant in both Texas and Florida.
The “filled to capacity” second floor conference center of the Opa-locka Municipal Complex, 780 Fisherman Street, was a testament to the affect and impact “Zeke” held on colleagues, family, friends, residents and many former employees who returned to salute him at the City’s retirement celebration.
“Words of Encouragement” were offered by Mayor Myra L. Taylor, Vice Mayor Joseph L. Kelley, Commissioner Dorothy Johnson, Commissioner Luis B. Santiago and Commissioner Timothy Holmes, who Dr. Orji tagged as, “a “true friend” in the City, “because he listens.”
Zeke, who jump-started his career with a four-year Public Accountant position at Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, has had a very diverse career working for medium and large organizations. He became Director of Finance for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Houston, Texas; Capital Metro in Austin Texas; and the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado for a combined total of 14 years. In 1994, he secured a position as Aviation Finance Director at Miami International Airport for 10 years, followed by two years in Miami Transit. Dr. Orji managed Operating and Capital Budgets ranging from $30 million to 5.4 billion. With his experience at Miami-Dade Aviation implementing $400 million of commercial paper program and issuing bonds in excess of $1.5 billion of Revenue Bonds, in 2006 he entered his tenure in Opa-locka with a zeal for changing the City’s financial situation. After joining “the great” City of Opa-locka, he served the community for over seven years, strengthening the finance department and for six consecutive years earning the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) “Certificates of Excellence” in financial reporting. “Zeke” directed the refinancing of the City’s 1991 revenue bond for a savings of over $1 million and introduced a reserved bank account that helped cash finance the City’s biggest capital structure of over $4 million and, to date, maintained a positive cash reserve balance.
Randomly “roasting” the financial wizard, guests formed a line to share sentimental reflections, comedic stories or flattering remarks regarding “Zeke’s” loyalty, service and work ethics. Rev. Corrina Olsen of St. Lukes Episcopal Church stated that Dr. Orji once believed his purpose was to serve in the ministry. She praised him for his dedication, faith and commitment, but assured him that his calling WAS for the work he performed in the City of Opa-locka. Among the gifted pool of volunteers happy to share their talents in behalf of Dr. Orji’s “sendoff,” was Assistant City Manager/witty program host “MC (David) Chiverton,” along with Mary Brown, Newall Daughtrey and Howard Brown, who, respectively, sang, prayed and extended the welcome.
Dr. Orji concluded the luncheon, and his 35-year successful career in Senior Financial Management, by commenting, “After retiring from the City of Opa-locka, I will be glad to close this chapter of my profession to spend more time enjoying Eugenia, my wife of 33-years, our three beautiful children (Chidinma, Obinna and Edison) and traveling. As well, I look forward to answering any additional callings that God has placed on my life.” HE then called-out, “IGBO KWENO?” …And the Nigerian guests responded, “IGBO KWENO (tribe agrees)!”