Longtime 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 had 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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Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Lee -

All those checks I wrote to you over the years and yet I never knew you.
May you rest in peace good and faithful public servant.

Like this comment
Posted by bob cancilla
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Lee Buffington was a dear friend and a great person. I served with him on the San Mateo County Retirement Board for several years back in the mid 80's. Lee loved his job, his family, and friends. He will be greatly missed by those of us who had the pleasure of getting to know him.

Like this comment
Posted by Agnes
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Dec 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

I did some consulting work for Lee in the treasurer's office about 17 years ago. He was truly a good man who had only the best intentions. He also cared very much for his employees, almost as if they were family.

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