Thank You and Best Wishes

by Rich Jones, CPA, CGMA, President & CEO | May 31, 2017

As I write my last President’s column for the Washington CPA Magazine, I am filled with such a sense of gratitude for having been allowed to be your President and CEO for the past 12 years. It has truly been my honor to represent Washington CPAs with our legislature and with other educational and professional groups in Washington and around the country. These groups are always interested in hearing what CPAs think and they value our opinions because they know we always have the public interest in mind. As I like to say, “Public” is our middle name and that is at the core of our service to others. As long as we remember that in how we conduct ourselves, our profession will continue to be in great demand.

During my time with the WSCPA, we have accomplished a number of noteworthy successes. The accomplishment of which I am most proud is the strong relationship we have developed with our members’ principal regulator, the Washington State Board of Accountancy (WBOA). Governor Chris Gregoire appointed Rick Sweeney to be the Executive Director of the WBOA at the same time I was selected to be the CEO of WSCPA. At the time, our two organizations had a very dysfunctional relationship and seemed to be challenged to reach agreements on key issues of the day. The Governor tasked Rick with accomplishing three things, one of which was to improve the relationship between WBOA and WSCPA. At our first meeting, a NASB A West Regional meeting in Anchorage, Rick and I introduced ourselves and adopted a creed for a working relationship between our organizations. That creed was “we may disagree , but we will never be disagreeable.” To this day, neither of us (nor the principals in our organizations) has ever broken that creed. Rick retired from WBOA a year ago and his successor, Charles Satterlund, has honored this commitment, as has my successor, Kimberly Scott. “Why is this significant?” you might ask. Here are just some of the things we were able to accomplish together as a result of this cooperation:

  • Worked together with the Governor to secure appointments to WBOA of CPAs (and three non-CPA members) who have excellent credentials to understand the real world practice of public accounting and of private accounting by CPAs and who can utilize their experience to promulgate reasonable rules and fairly administer discipline to violators of those rules. Personally, I doubt there is a more qualified board of accountancy anywhere in the US today.
  • We have worked together to propose and pass legislation that makes sense for today’s business world. These changes include individual CPA mobility that allows CPAs to work across state lines with “no notice, no fees and no escape.” Rick and I even went to California early on to testify before their state board when they were considering passing individual mobility. In March of 2016 we also successfully passed legislation to clarify the definition of attest services and to pass firm mobility provisions that allow out of state CPA firms that do not have an office in Washington to perform attest services in Washington without having to register or pay a fee. We expect most, if not all, states will pass similar legislation so that Washington CPA firms can also perform attest services in those states without having to register and pay fees, again assuming they do not have an office in that state. These changes will eliminate a great deal of paperwork and fees for Washington CPA firms who perform attest services across state lines, the same way they have greatly reduced the compliance burden of individual CPAs working across state lines.
  • A major achievement for WBOA and WSCPA was the creation of a Washington State Certified Public Accounting Scholarship Program in 2015 that is administered by Washington CPA Foundation Trustees. Funding for this $3.3 million program came from the legislature when they transferred what they considered to be excess reserves from the WBOA to this program. We believe this is the first time in the country where excess funds were transferred to something other than the General Fund of a state and instead were repurposed to the profession that created the surplus. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year the program will provide $300,000 in scholarships to approximately 60 accounting students!
  • We have been successful on several other legislative initiatives. One was a two year effort to prevent the WBOA from being rolled-up into the Department of Licensing, which would have ended their independent status. In the legislative arena, it is truly a team sport that requires the active support of our members, legislators, our lobbyist, friends of the profession, other professional organizations (e.g., AICPA and NASBA and sometimes non-CPA associations), board members or staff of WBOA when that is allowed, and very importantly, our extremely competent and hard-working staff. Collectively we have done an outstanding job—we have not lost a single issue in more than a decade. We are all very proud of that record.

Over the past several years we have also increased the corpus of the Foundation through solicitation of larger annual gifts, the creation of a donor recognition program (the Foundation Circle) and also a Named Scholarship program. We also received a bequest from the estates of Roy and Linda Polley in 2015 totaling more than $1.3 million to provide scholarships for accounting students studying at Washington colleges and universities. About a decade ago, Roy and Linda contacted me to discuss their desires to leave substantially all of their wealth to our Foundation. Several of us met many times with the Polleys to assist them in arranging for their desired bequests. We also developed a wonderful friendship over this time and we are so appreciative of their generosity. As you may know, one of the classrooms in the WSCPA LearningCenter has been named the Roy J. Polley Memorial Classroom in their honor.

If you know me, you know I could go on talking for hours about all of the WSCPA’s accomplishments over the past 12 years. On a personal note, I have made so many friends in our membership, at WBOA, AICPA, NASBA, The Accountants’ Coalition, CPA/SEA (the association of state society CEOs), and in our member firms. I would particularly like to thank those members who have served on our board of directors, as officers of our board, on committees, task forces, and chapter boards, and last, but not least, our society staff. They are 100% committed to the success of our members and perform heroic tasks every day. They deserve the credit for every good thing we do. We have a President’s Award that the President and CEO awards each year to a member or organization who has made a significant contribution to the success of the profession. This year my President’s Award goes to the staff of the WSCPA to recognize their many valuable contributions to our organization. They will each receive an individual award personalized with their name. I hope you will find the time to thank them individually for their work on our behalf. They make this organization so special.

It is important to me, as a continuing member of the WSCPA, that my successor be someone who will lead us to even greater heights. I could not be more pleased that Kimberly Scott was selected as our new CEO. I have worked very closely with her during my time here and she has my complete confidence. She is a good listener, brings people together well to solve issues, is a risk-taker when that is necessary, and is an excellent leader. Please give her the same support you gave me.

Finally, thank you for letting me be your leader for the past 12 years. This has been the highlight of my professional career and I did my very best job to earn your support.

Rich Jones, CPA, CGMA, is the President and CEO of the WSCPA.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2017 issue of  WashingtonCPA Magazine. Read more here.

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