Chief financial officer and board treasurer for Columbia Public Schools
AGE: 50 JOB DESCRIPTION: I am responsible for the financial management of CPS including the departments of accounting and budgeting, payroll, employee benefits, purchasing, investment and debts of the district. I also serve as risk manager for the district.
YEARS LIVED IN COLUMBIA: None — I live in Fayette. But I love working in Columbia because it is such a wonderful community.
ORIGINAL HOMETOWN: Fayette EDUCATION: Bachelor of science in accounting from William Woods College
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: I have not made time to become involved in Columbia during these first years at Columbia Public Schools, but I look forward to that opportunity. I am active in the Fayette community in various roles in my church and in various organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, PEO and local Kiwanis and Jaycees. For years I was a member and officer of school athletic and music booster groups, and I have chaired the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Boonville Heritage Days Festival and Habitat for Humanity board. I also served a term on the City Council in Fayette. And now I’m the financial adviser to my college sorority at my alma mater, Williams Woods.
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: I spent my first few years out of college in public accounting at Williams-Keepers and then spent 17 years in banking while serving as chief financial officer and chief operations officer. I also spent a couple of years as an agent for life and health insurance and property and casualty insurance before moving into education (I just celebrated my fifth anniversary at Columbia Public Schools). My husband and I have owned and managed both a local grocery and hardware store, which were great fun for me.
A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: I’ve had lots of recent projects, but I’m not sure I have a favorite. At Columbia Public Schools we have spent the past two years working on our conversion to a modern-day finance and payroll software system. We went live on finance in July 2010 and live on payroll this July. The process has allowed us to look at internal processes and procedures.
A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE AND WHY: Dave Rawlings, now retired as managing partner of Williams-Keepers, was my first and (no offense to Dr. Belcher) favorite boss. I was straight out of college and ready to learn. Working with Dave afforded me a wonderful learning experience and exposure to some really interesting projects with the Columbia business community during the mid-1980s. The goal was always to help clients grow and improve their business. His knowledge and passion for his work flowed daily, and he made me feel as if he had great confidence in me. I have always said I have to work for someone whom I respect, and I think that was because I had such respect for my first boss.
WHY I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT MY JOB: Although Columbia Public Schools is not often thought of as a business, it is one of the largest businesses in Columbia, with an annual budget of more than $250 million and nearly 2,500 employees. Because we are in the business of education, the majority of our leaders are educators. My job is to help them succeed with their programming and meet the considerable federal and state compliance and accounting standards we have. That isn’t always easy, but it’s important to the short- and long-term success of the organization, which in turn means the success of the students.
IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR A LIVING, I WOULD: Run a little bed-and-breakfast with my husband in the mountains of Colorado or Montana.
BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME AND HOW: When I left Williams-Keepers, I was expecting my second child, and tax season was a hard thing to manage as a young mom. I went into the savings and loan business in 1988, just as the savings and loan crisis began. Six months into the job, the federal government showed up and seized the institution (while I was on maternity leave). I say all the time that moving to banking was the worst career move I ever made, but it resulted in a career I love. I stayed with the federal government (that was interesting) after we sold off the assets of the savings and loan and worked another local institution sale. The bank that bought that organization asked me to stay and serve as the finance and operations officer there.
WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: We aren’t all bean-counting geeks! There are a lot of interesting and vibrant people in my line of work. In the public sector accounting field, you are that — public. We work under the public microscope every day, and that is hard to get used to, but we do it with confidence and a bit of fun here and there.
WHAT I DO FOR FUN: Time for fun is a real challenge on this job. My husband and I like to camp, and we try to take a couple of three- or four-day trips a year with friends and prefer areas where there is no cell phone service. Fortunately, I have such a great staff that they don’t need me much when I am out.
FAMILY: My husband, Mark, and I have been married for 28 years. After we got out of the hardware business, Mark went into sales and sells to hardware stores around Missouri. We have two sons, Matthew and Morgan. Matthew graduated from the University of Central Missouri and is an audio engineer in Los Angeles, where he has lived for three years. Morgan earned an aerospace engineering degree at Saint Louis University last year and works as an engineer in St. Louis.
FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: Shakespeare’s downtown. When Matthew is here for a visit, we have to go.
ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: I am a firm believer in telling your own story. At Columbia Public Schools we have worked hard to open the book of finances and have offered several opportunities for our board members, employees and members of the community to learn and understand the details. We will continue that effort every year with a goal of no fear of living in our glass house.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THAT: I like to sing and recently made time to perform in the community theater in Fayette. I would love to be able to do that more! I also love to cook. My husband and I have for years led the local booster groups, Optimist Club and our church in feeding large groups and have a great time doing it. I make a pretty good blackberry jelly.