Monday, April 17, 2017

An Ode to Two Bookkeepers

By C.J. Hirschfield

I have had two great careers with two wonderful organizations, totaling 35 years. During those years I have worked with exactly two bookkeepers, and I can’t say enough about how much they’ve contributed to the overall success of each operation – and about how they’ve made it possible for me to look smarter than I am, and to grow businesses in a way that benefits our employees and the folks we serve.

Sharon Reneau was my bookkeeper when I worked for a statewide telecommunications- industry association. Her Alabama drawl might have led you to believe she was a laid-back Southerner, but in fact she was on top of every one of the eight million dollars generated by a convention that I produced.

Once, an incoming president of the organization’s governing board wanted to quickly advertise his leadership and financial acumen by completely changing budget categories to a format that was nearly unintelligible. Sharon graciously complied. And then she made sure we reverted back to good sense when he moved on.

On another occasion, a company executive was found to be falsifying thousands of dollars’ worth of expenses. Sharon and I conferred, and her wise counsel was critical to our successfully handling and resolving the issue.

For the last 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of working with Missie Morris.

Fairyland's longtime bookkeeper Missie Morris wouldn't let us publish her photo. But we think she'd approve of this image.

In case you hadn’t noticed, bookkeepers typically don’t crave the limelight. In fact, Missie may want to kill me for even writing about her. But her recent quiet departure from Fairyland – she emphatically declared that she would not attend any party for her if we were foolish enough to throw one – has inspired me to sing her praises as one of the workforce’s unsung heroes.

Thank you, Missie, for caring so much for all of the kids we serve. Your somewhat gruff demeanor might have suggested otherwise, but we know that you internalized our mission many years ago.

Thank you for dealing with our board, auditors, vendors, employees, subcontractors and funders with grace and compassion.

Thank you for figuring out the arcane ways of government processes during the times we received funding from bond measures to build a theater, offices, a puppet-theater expansion.

Thank you for appreciating that Fairyland is a place with hundreds of moving parts — all of them moving at once – and for always being available when we needed you.

Thank you for your creative problem-solving and analytical skills, and for coming up with inspired ways to tell our story with numbers.

Thank you for helping us leverage every single dollar we earn or receive to ensure that we prioritize our mission.

Thank you for your keen detective work when we needed to track down an invoice, a payment, a former employee or even a lost child.

Thank you for also serving as our human resources go-to person. God knows that payroll, workers’ comp and health benefits may not be sexy, but boy, are they important. Each and every Fairyland employee knew you were always working hard on their behalf.

And finally, thank you for being a trusted adviser and sounding board to me. Although we occasionally disagreed, I always knew that you had the best interests of Fairyland at heart. Your wonderfully dry sense of humor often saved the day. And by the way, I apologize for all those “emergency” checks that needed to be cut so that the fairy gates wouldn’t come tumbling down.

For all of this, I thank and salute you.

Missie, I’ve seen your adorable grandkids and your large, friendly dog. I know they look forward to seeing more of you.

So I will end with a phrase that you’re known for around here. We’d hear you say it when there was just no explanation possible, or recourse available:

Missie, your retirement from Fairyland? “It is what it is.”

C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

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