Updated March 25 at 6:25am

This numbers guy fueled by purpose, commitment

By Paul E. Kandarian
Contributing Writer
Lee D. Grossi has spent a lifetime doing financial work, mostly in the public sector.

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This numbers guy fueled by purpose, commitment


Lee D. Grossi has spent a lifetime doing financial work, mostly in the public sector.

In 1980, he was appointed chief financial officer to merge the services of four state departments into a unified children’s department. He has served as interim RIte Care director to negotiate and implement a major federal waiver to reorganize delivery of medical care for 100,000 Rhode Islanders.

From 1985 to 1990, he was the state’s chief financial officer, serving as Rhode Island’s budget officer. In 2006, he conducted a financial review of the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families to redirect expenditures from institutional to home-based care. From 2007 to 2009, he served as interim secretary of Human Services to reorganize and reduce expenditures in four departments.

Six times – twice out of retirement – he was called on by four Rhode Island governors, of both major parties, to address critical issues facing the state.

And now, he says, he’s doing God’s work helping children: Grossi, 63, is chief financial officer for Children’s Friend in Providence, a statewide leader in serving children and families by providing them with needed social services.

“When I come to work every day, I really enjoy it,” Grossi said. “We’re literally doing God’s work protecting our children.”

For the work done over his long career, Grossi has earned Providence Business News’ 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award for top chief financial officers in the state.

Much of Grossi’s work has been centered around children, whom he calls “the most vulnerable part of the population. I’ve always been drawn to that, always wanted to do it. When things needed to be done, I just wanted to help.”

In the mid-1980s, for example, as the state’s budget officer, when the DCYF found itself with an overwhelming caseload, Grossi and others helped establish CANT – the Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking system.

“I was part of a team brought together to help with an early-response system,” he said. “There was a great need for it.”

During the nomination process for the Lifetime Achievement Award, letters of support were written for Grossi, including from J. Joseph Garrahy, governor of Rhode Island from 1977 to 1985.

“He was one of Rhode Island’s outstanding employees,” Garrahy wrote. “Even after retiring from state government, Lee was called on to assist the management of complex state programs. He also assisted a number of nonprofit organizations to achieve efficiency and sound fiscal practices.”

Grossi, Garrahy said, “epitomizes all those qualities which are the best in public service – integrity and honesty and [he] possesses important people skills.”

Grossi’s financial foundation started at Providence College, where even before he graduated, he worked as an intern in the state budget office. And later, while working for the state, he got his master’s degree in public administration from the University of Rhode Island.

Throughout his career, Grossi says, he’s enjoyed the flexibility of going from one state department to another and doing various, challenging work. And his efforts did not go unrewarded: In 1978, he received state and national awards as part of a three-member team that helped resolve a federal court order to shut down the Rhode Island prison system.

In 1975, Grossi was part of a state team that negotiated a contract with Ocean Tides Family Services, where he met its current CEO, Michael Reis.

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