An analyst's early intervention

James Dougherty, a laid off budget analyst, should be bragging about his accomplishments in the financial arena, but what he really wants to talk about is the importance of early intervention in the lives of children with disabilities. "This is the first step for them," he said. "It's their first encounter with the educational system."

Dougherty's fervor about early intervention doesn't come because he's a teacher or a parent of a disabled child. Instead, it's because he had been unemployed. In 2004, when he was looking for work, he decided to shift away from a long career in budget and cost analysis on the business side and move those same skills into the nonprofit world.  

James Dougherty

"I think there's a real need for my skills because the nonprofit arena doesn't have that," he said. He landed a job at Elwyn Inc., which provides early intervention services and became a believer. "It was very rewarding," he said. On the financial side, he supervised contracts, led a transition from a paper-based system to an electronic one and met with government agencies. But when spending had to be cut, he had the least seniority and so was laid off in May 2010. "It was probably the most rewarding job I ever had and I'm sorry I'm not still doing it."

Dougherty, of Ridley Park, spent most of his career at PECO, moving steadily up the corporate ladder. One accomplishment was saving PECO millions of dollars in interest payments it was making on machinery that was essentially sitting idle during delays in the construction of the Limerick nuclear power plant. He said that the recognition he received for that accomplishment early in his career kept him motivated ever since. He worked for PECO for nearly 30 years, but lost his job in 2000 as PECO was acquired by the Chicago-based Exelon Corp.

Dougherty says that budget and cost analysts concern themselves with the real world. A budget may represent a blueprint for spending, but what matters is whether the money actually comes and goes out as planned in the budget. "I look at the real world. I've done that for my entire career."

To him, the job is central to any enterprise. "It makes everything work," he said. "Money drives the world. Innovation starts it, engineering and project staff coordinate, but it is money that drives everything." 

Now that he's laid off, he's been using those same budget skills to trim the family's insurance and cable bills so that his wife's paycheck from her nursing supervisor's job will be able to carry the household, which includes two children, age 20 and 15. 

Looking at it financially, he'd love to return to PECO, and that may be a possibility. "It would be like going home," he said. Looking at it emotionally, he'd like to interest the state departments that run organizations like Elwyn in a financial accounting model that he says would save money, leaving more of it to be spent on the children.

Dougherty hopes he'll get a job, but he does have a Plan B in the works. A qualified ski instructor who now skis for pleasure, Dougherty could return to the slopes as a teacher, a part time job he held in the past. "The one thing I do know is that I will be skiing, whether I will be skiing for fun or skiing to be paid," he said. "It's an option."

 Update: As of December, 2011, Dougherty is still looking for work.

  • James Dougherty
  • Hometown: Ridley Park
  • Profession: Budget and cost analyst
  • Experience: Built an electronic billing and budget system. Reviewed financial statements. Worked in cost analysis to meet contract terms in budgets ranging from $20 million to $100 million. Acquired exposure to various government reporting systems. Handled yearly budgets of up to $60 million. Designed various cost control systems.
  • Education: Philadelphia University, bachelor's degree in business management. 
  • E-mail address:
  • James Dougherty's resume


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Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or