His work for Hennepin County is so routinely beyond reproach that he’s earned the nickname, “Flawless.”

Dave Lawless is the director of budget and finance, outranked as an appointed employee only by the county administrator.

Whether it’s Target Field debt, gun permit applications or the property tax levy, Lawless has the numbers.

Despite overseeing the $1.8 billion annual operation (an additional $800 million if Hennepin County Medical Center is included), the 56-year-old Lawless tends to keep a low profile while attending and monitoring every County Board session.

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from St. Thomas, Lawless worked at Control Data and as a county intern before he was hired in the finance and budget office as an analyst in 1989. He’s been there ever since. For the past 11 years, he’s been in the top job at the county, a steady presence.

Lawless said he’s stayed with government work for two main reasons: the variety and public service.

“We have 30 departments that do 30 different things,” he said, from the financing for Target Field to health care details at HCMC and solid waste services, “a spectrum of activity that affects people’s lives.”

He provides the fiscal reality that underpins County Board choices. “We’re here to help in finding the balance between providing the necessary services and making sure the taxpayers’ costs are not too expensive,” he said.

Lawless appears to maintain a copacetic relationship with the board, which he credits for hiring professional staff to do the work of running the county. He’s a quiet character with a sly grin who responds readily to detailed questions, but doesn’t otherwise draw attention to himself.

When he’s not crunching numbers for the county, Lawless relaxes with long bike rides, downhill skiing and walking his dog, a mutt named Chip. He and his “charming” wife live in Minneapolis and have three grown sons.