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ALAN TURNER: Cheryl Lee staying the career course

 

Cheryl Lee

Cheryl Lee

It isn’t often that one meets someone who has spent an entire career working for a single firm.  Cheryl Lee is one of those rare folks.

A member of Haddox Reid Eubank Betts in Jackson, Cheryl is in charge of Client Accounting Services for the firm, and she handles a variety of services for clients including tax and tax planning, payroll and bookkeeping, retirement plan administration, and advisory work.

Cheryl was born in Jackson but raised in Pearl.  She started out in life with the desire to be a doctor, but changed her mind and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps (he was an accountant also).  After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, she started her career in the tax department and has stayed with for nearly 30 years.

In a recent meeting, we asked her for her perspectives on Jackson, Mississippi, and current tax issues for businesses in our state.

“The Affordable Care Act and all of its rules and regulations are very important for businesses to be aware of,” she said.  “Each year, we discover new parts of the law that we weren’t aware of, and some have the potential to have significant impacts on businesses.”

As she sees it, accountants are being thrust into a more active role in helping their clients to make realistic decisions related to health care for their employees, “especially when it comes to the reporting and compliance issues”, she said.

She said there are numerous companies that are trying to evaluate their options, up to and including whether they should cease offering health benefits to their employees and simply pay the tax penalties associated with the ACA.

“It’s clearly a challenge for businesses at many levels,” she said.  “Businesses are probably over-regulated as it is, and this certainly isn’t going to help.”

Despite such concerns, Cheryl is optimistic about Mississippi’s future.

“Mississippi has been at the bottom of many scales,” she said.  “But we clearly have a lot to offer, with our people, resources, and location.  I think with the right effort and promotion, Mississippi can attract a lot of new business in the coming years.”

In particular, she sees health care as a rising opportunity in Mississippi, suggesting that “we already have great resources, and those can be expanded and developed to take the state to a new level.  We need to protect and support those resources, and we’ll all benefit.”

Since her firm is part of the downtown Jackson scene, we asked her for her views on Jackson and its problems.

“Well, I’d say that Jackson needs to be fixed,” she said.  “This can only be done through the right investment, good governance, and support from the state.”

She did say that she is “encouraged by what I see happening in downtown Jackson, and I think it can be a really positive environment for businesses and people who want to live downtown.”

After the recent merger, Haddox Reid Eubank Betts has emerged as one of the largest accounting firms in Mississippi, and Cheryl sees a strong future for the company.

“We have some great people here,” she said.  Since she has spent her career in essentially the same firm, we think she really means that.

“I’ve certainly been very happy and fortunate in my career choices,” she said.  “I think it’s so important to focus on doing what you love, and if you don’t, you have a long time to be miserable.”

In addition to her work at the firm, Cheryl is also one of the Mississippi Business Journal’s 50 Leading Businesswomen, and is also the president-elect for the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accounts.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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