Girl Boss 2020: Karen Getz Rhodes-Whitley

Karen Getz Rhodes-Whitley // photo Kathy Tran
Karen Getz Rhodes-Whitley // photo Kathy Tran

Directing a billion-dollar budget for the City of Plano has never been an easy job, but these days, it is even more challenging. Karen Getz Rhodes-Whitley, Plano’s director of budget, takes on that challenge every day to help the city provide services to keep its residents safe and prosperous.

Since moving to Plano in 1971 as a child, Karen has witnessed its explosive growth. As director of budget, she plans for the city’s financial future; she makes certain every department receives funding to help residents continue to enjoy quality living here. “I’m the go-to person when departments need something for citizens,” she explained.

“The struggle is real up here,” said Karen, explaining how city money will be tight since sales, hotel and entertainment tax revenues have dropped as a result of pandemic closures. “Everyone needs to not be complacent.”

Michelle Hawkins, arts and events manager for City of Plano, works with Karen, who recently completed her 30th year with the city. “She is able to balance and explain the very complicated city budget so anyone can understand it,” Michelle said. “Through all of that, she doesn’t seek attention for it, is supportive and uplifting to staff and is so calm under pressure.”

City Manager Mark Israelson was hired by Karen when he first came to work for the city, so he has witnessed her work commitment. “Her reputation is unparalleled in our organization,” he said.

The recipient of two master’s degrees, Karen wants to be remembered for being able to easily recall detailed information. “I can give you any kind of number off the top of my head,” she said. “That’s what they like about me.”

She credits her parents, who still have her childhood home in Plano, for being her inspirations. “We are living in a pretty good time for women,” Karen explained. “Back in my mom’s day, you got married, became a teacher or became a nun.”

Karen encourages women to believe in themselves. “No one can tell you what you should be doing,” she said, “and you can overcome any obstacle.”

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