CPA career a family tradition
If it makes a father proud to see his child follow in his footsteps, local accountant Glen Strickland was a proud man in 1981 when his daughter, Donna Barksdale, followed in his footsteps by becoming a certified public accountant.
This December, Barksdale found out exactly how she made her father feel 30 years ago as her daughter, Alison, became a certified public accountant – making three generations of CPAs in their family.
Strickland first got his start in the accounting business in 1960 after he graduated with a double major in accounting and math from the University of North Alabama.
“I enjoyed working with numbers and I knew that I wanted to do something related to math,” he said. “People told me I should do chemistry but it didn’t take me long to figure out that chemistry wasn’t for me. I took some accounting classes and realized that was the direction I wanted to go.”
Strickland grew up in the Spruce Pine area and said he loved his Franklin County upbringing, but when it came time to find a job after college, there weren’t any jobs available in his field in the area.
“After I graduated from UNA, I went to work for a local firm in Birmingham,” he said. “I received my CPA certification in November of 1963 and I moved back home and opened my own office on Nov. 1, 1964.”
With the opening of that office came a special title – Strickland became the first CPA in Franklin County.
“I really liked the small town atmosphere where you know the people you work with,” he said. “I also liked the variety that came from working in a smaller community because I deal with a little of everything instead of one specific form of accounting.”
Strickland’s business continued to grow and so did his family. Pretty soon, Barksdale was working alongside her father in the family business and helping out with tasks in the office.
“I started working up there when I was 12 answering the phones and doing small things, but I knew enough about it to know that it was something I wanted to do when I was older,” Barksdale said. “I liked math and I was better at it than I was at other things and I was glad to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”
When Barksdale graduated from high school, she set out for UNA, just like her father, and eventually earned her degree in accounting in 1981, which wasn’t a very common degree for a female to have at that time.
“I wasn’t the only female student in my class in college, but there weren’t many of us,” Barksdale said. “It just wasn’t something a lot of women were doing. It was generally thought of as a man’s job.”
When Barksdale received her CPA certification and began working with her father at what became Strickland and Barksdale CPAs in Russellville, Barksdale earned a special title similar to the one her father received several years earlier – she became the first female CPA in Franklin County.
Joining with her father also made Strickland and Barksdale what the state office believed was the first father-daughter CPA partnership in the state.
“Coming back to work with my dad was something I wanted to do because I liked the personal contact and getting to help clients one-on-one,” she said. “I knew that working in a smaller atmosphere rather than a big city was the right choice for me.”
Several years later, Barksdale’s daughter, Alison, continued the tradition and followed in her mom’s footsteps as she began working at Strickland and Barksdale, CPAs, when she was in high school.
“Just from working with my mom and granddaddy I knew that accounting was something I would probably enjoy,” Alison said. “I wasn’t completely set on it, though, when I went to college and I thought I might like engineering, so I actually tried that out first.”
Alison’s venture into engineering at Auburn University took her far but in a literal sense of the word. Through a partnership AU had with the University of Plymouth in London, Alison traveled to London during college where she worked on an automatic tire inflation system.
“The ones who were engineers worked on the specs, but I ended up running the numbers to figure out how everything would work and how the business end of things would go,” she said. “I figured out then that I didn’t want to do engineering and that accounting was really the way I wanted to go.”
Alison graduated with a Bachelors in Accounting from AU in 2010 and graduated with a Masters in Accounting from AU this December.
Unlike her mother and grandfather, Alison decided to take the corporate route first and is currently working for a larger firm in Birmingham called KPMG where she works in the federal taxes department.
“This is a big firm with offices all over the world so it’s very different than working in a small town,” she said. “We work almost exclusively with corporations and what I do is more concentrated instead of being varied like what my mom and granddaddy do here.”
Even though she’s taking a slightly different route than the two generations before her, Strickland said he is proud of his granddaughter for all she has accomplished thus far.
“Alison does a good job and I think she will go far in this profession,” he said. “It takes a special gift to do this kind of work and I think she has it.”
Barksdale also added that her daughter had the advantage of knowing what the business was like before jumping right into it, which was a benefit.
“The hours associated with this job can be very long, especially during tax season,” Barksdale said. “That can be tough on people when they’re not used to it, but Alison saw what all this job entailed and I think that will help her be better prepared for the stress you can sometimes face.”
In addition to having his daughter and granddaughter join the ranks as CPAs, Strickland’s wife, Barbara, and his other daughter, Cynthia Fennel, work at the office and his grandson, Will, is majoring in accounting at AU where he is currently a junior.
“When they talk about family businesses, this really is a family business,” he said.