Accounting for success
by Martin Willoughby
Published: December 7,2012
There are a number of professional associations that play a very important role in the business community of our state. Last week, I focused on Larry Houchins and The Mississippi Bar, and this week I turn the attention to another impactful organization — the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA). I interviewed Jack Coppenbarger, who is executive director of the MSCPA and has over 25 years of experience with the organization. The MSCPA has been around since 1920 and serves over 2,700 members by acting as the “state advocate for Certified Public Accountants …to provide its members with resources, education, information, and leadership so that they may act in the highest ethical and professional manner for the benefit of clients, employers, and the public.” With 16 active committees and nine chapters, the organization has a major presence in the state.
Coppenbarger grew up in Raymond and graduated from Hinds Community College with associates degree then went on to earn a B.A. in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi and master’s degree in adult education. Coppenbarger’s career began in journalism and public relations when he was hired at USM in the Public Information Office. He went on to serve back at Hinds Community College as director of public relations and journalism instructor. Coppenbarger left Hinds in 1978 to take over as editor and publisher of the Simpson County News. In 1985, he sold his interest in the paper and joined the MSCPA as education director with additional duties in lobbying and publications. The MSCPA asked him to become executive director in 1995, and he has served in that role ever since.
Continuing education is part of the MSCPA’s mission, and Coppenbarger takes his own continuing education seriously, as well. He shared about the impact the MEC’s Leadership Program had on him, and he shared, “I recall that that our closing speaker was a young, skinny governor from Arkansas …Bill Clinton. I still have contact with members of that class.” He participates in the ong oing training of the MSCPA volunteer leaders, and he noted, “I have also been fortunate to benefit from the excellent programming of the Mississippi Society of Association Executives which regularly provides valuable training to those of us who are running non-profits.” Coppenbarger’s leadership style was impacted early on by Dr. Robert Mayo, who was president of Hinds Community College. Coppenbarger shared, “Dr. Mayo was one of those rare individuals who was a leader with quiet dignity and treated everyone with respect. He was the type of leader that you didn’t want to disappoint but understood he had a lot of patience as some of us young staffers grew up in our jobs.”
Coppenbarger’s core philosophy as a leader is to “treat everyone with fairness and respect.” He emphasized, “If you want to lead people, then they must have the confidence that you know what you are doing and the goal is achievable and a worthy one to achieve.” One of his guiding quotes is by Stephen Covey, who said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Coppenbarger added, “I encourage young leaders to remain focused on their goals and to work toward them steadily. As the leader of a member-based organization, he has the challenge to evolve with technology and to continually add value to the membership. Coppenbarger shared, “With the digital world we live in small associations are constantly being challenged to keep up and stay in touch and be relevant.”
Coppenbarger and his dedicated team have done a great job in staying relevant and being a positive force for CPAs and the business community. Businesses both big and small rely daily on the guidance and counsel they get from their CPA advisors. The MSCPA is part of the backbone of our business community that helps those CPAs stay informed, educated, and proactive in dealing with the complex and ever changing world of accounting. I appreciate how they contribute to making our state better.
Up Close With Jack Coppenbarger
Title: Executive director, Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants
Favorite Books: ”My all-time favorites are Lost Horizon by James Hilton; Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I am currently reading Save Wisely, Spend Happily by Sharon L. Lechter, CPA, and The End of Membership As We Know It by Sarah L. Sladek.“
First Job: “My first paying job was at age 14 working for the City of Jackson Water Department. I did this for three summers and earned 90 cents per hour). The city hired a crew of boys each summer to cut grass along the major water main right-of-ways. However, part of the time they assigned two of us to paint fireplugs…back when fireplugs were red and silver. We met many interesting people (dogs, too) and got to know Jackson pretty well painting the fireplugs.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “Looking back at the years I spent in education, the newspaper business and association work, I can’t key in on a single moment as the ‘proudest.’ However, achieving goals with a team-effort and accomplishment is the continuing reward.”
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