DHG Alumni Profile – Sandy Thomas
What have you been doing since retiring last January?
Mostly, I’ve been splitting my time serving several charitable organizations, traveling, and my true passion: gardening. I’m highly involved with the Garden Club of America (GCA) – both locally and nationally – and have been for many years, including during my time at DHG. For three years I served as GCA’s national audit committee chair. I’m currently a member of the organization’s strategic planning committee and co-chair of its 2020 annual meeting committee.
Why are you so passionate about the Garden Club of America?
I find a lot of people don’t really understand GCA and the importance of what it does. Believe me, it’s not just a bunch of old ladies in backyard gardens or making pretty flower arrangements! We have some 18,000 members in 200 clubs across the country who involve themselves in a wide range of horticultural, environmental and conservation issues.
For over 100 years, we’ve been working to help conserve our national parks, protect endangered species and promote clean water – just to name a few initiatives. And every club strives to make a positive impact on its community; in many cases Garden Clubs have played a critical role in revitalizing decaying downtowns. Being part of GCA blends my love of hands-on gardening with my desire to be around smart, like-minded people.
What did your path to DHG partner look like?
After graduating from Marshall University in 1977, I worked with Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young) in the Charleston, West Virginia tax group for almost 10 years. It was a great experience but I wanted to accelerate my path to becoming a partner in a public accounting firm. So, I reached out to Bob Simpson at Simpson & Osborne, whose headquarters were just down the street.
I knew Bob and Roger (Osborne) professionally and their regional accounting firm had a great reputation. They took a chance and brought me on board. At the time I was that firm’s first and only female partner. They treated me wonderfully and I felt very respected. When Simpson & Osborne merged with Dixon Hughes Goodman in 2007, I was among a small, but growing, group of women partners.
What are some career highlights?
One was helping to lay the foundation for the firm’s energy practice. While at Simpson and Osborne, a high school friend became vice president of a large coal company. He introduced me to the president of the company. Even though S&O had no coal industry experience, we were able to convince the president to switch the company’s tax work from a Big 4 firm to S&O. That marked the beginning of our foray into mining. Coal taxation suddenly became my specialty and remained so for the better part of my career.
I’m also very proud of, not long before retiring, working as a team to create a course, “How to be a trusted advisor.” It’s designed to crystalize for DHG people, especially younger professionals, what’s most important for clients – providing exceptional service, making it personal, building relationships – and understanding the steps to transition from transactional CPA to trusted advisor. It was exceptionally rewarding.
Who are some of the DHG people who’ve made a difference in your professional life?
David Rainey and Dennis Vick in Greenville are two professionals I came to truly rely on and respect. Both are former EY tax partners. And while I was also a tax partner, it was very reassuring knowing that Dennis and David had my back on highly technical tax issues.
I also greatly appreciate the wise counsel of Joyce Waterbury (now retired), who led our firmwide tax group. Finally, having the opportunity to watch and have a hand in the growth and progress of Allison Ballard and Andy Young – who are both now partners – was truly an honor and a pleasure. In fact, Joyce, Allison, Andy and I still stay in touch.
What does it mean to you to be a DHG alum?
I’m very proud to say I was a partner at DHG. It’s a wonderful place for someone’s career as it seems to attract like-minded people. The firm’s values and mission are more than just words, but something we truly strive to live by, day by day.
More about Sandy:
She and her husband David, a semi-retired attorney, have been married for 34 years. They have one son, Frank Andrew, who works for the Motley Fool in Washington D.C. Since retiring, she has traveled to Spain, Italy, France and is planning a “dream trip” to Africa next year. In addition to her involvement in the Garden Club of America, she is also a member of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation board. With more free time, Sandy enjoys many more outdoor activities, such as golf and hiking.