Valerie joined the firm in January 2018, with the firm’s acquisition of Gibbons & Kawash, where she had spent more than 25 years, rising to the position of managing partner. She graduated from Marshall University and proudly supports the “Thundering Herd.” She serves as the firm’s area coordinator in the Charleston office, and is an audit partner, with a diverse array of clients in the healthcare, nonprofit, higher education, energy and manufacturing sectors, just to name a few. She and her husband, Jack, live in Scott Depot, West Virginia, and are proud parents of Jackson and Lauren, both college students. She is a member of the Charleston Rotary Club, a member of the Marshall University Division of Accountancy and Legal Environment Advisory Board, and enjoys teaching personal finance to teenage parents.
Let’s ask her a few questions:
Where are you from and where did you grow up?
I am a West Virginian through and through. I spent my early years “up a holler” in a small coal mining town known as Kayford, West Virginia, 17 miles up Cabin Creek. Today, that town doesn’t even exist. My dad worked for a coal company, and many family members were coal miners. In high school we moved to the booming town of Cross Lanes, a suburb near Charleston.
Do you have any hobbies? If yes, tell us about them.
I love to cook. I collect cookbooks and subscribe to multiple food magazines and apps, but I rarely follow a recipe. I just gather inspiration from them and start throwing things together. The problem is that when something turns out really well, I probably won’t ever be able to replicate it.
What is something people would find surprising to learn about you?
I am totally NUTS about my two Australian terriers, Zeke and Ted. I must confess that I used to be somewhat judgmental about “dog people” but now I am talking to them like they understand, driving them around in doggie car seats, and taking them to doggie day care. It really is amazing that no matter what kind of day I’ve had, when they rush to greet me at the door, it automatically puts a big smile on my face.
What do you consider your best quality or trait?
I hope it is humility. It’s something I strive for. To me, humility is realizing that you make mistakes and owning them, listening to and learning from others, understanding that you are part of something bigger than yourself, and spending minimal time thinking about yourself and how others see you. I don’t think personal or professional growth is possible without it.
What is the best advice you ever received and from who?
I used to be a worrier, but after hearing from my husband about 500 times that “90 percent of the things you worry about never happen, and the other 10 percent you can’t control anyway,” I started to believe him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared that with other worriers that have come my way over the years.
If you could be a superhero what would be your superpower?
Wonder Woman, of course! Wikipedia says she is a “powerful, strong-willed character…[who is] simultaneously both the most fierce and most nurturing member of the Justice League.” I like that. Plus, she is physically strong and athletic. I’m barely 5’3” and known for my lack of athleticism. My kids think it is hilarious that I missed being the high school valedictorian because of a “B” in physical education. (Don’t share that last part with my partners, or I won’t get picked for a volleyball team at the next partner retreat!)
What is your favorite food?
I love to eat, so it’s hard to narrow down. My general rule is the spicier, the better. But I’m a West Virginia gal so there are times I just have to have pinto beans and cornbread.
What famous figure (living or dead) would you most like to meet and why?
I would love to sit down and talk with Ronald Reagan. I came of age during the Reagan Revolution, and watched his policies restore hope and prosperity at home, while creating peace through strength abroad. It still touches me when I see the video clip of him saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
What do you think is your biggest contribution to the Brown Edwards team?
I hope my colleagues would say my positive attitude and passion for what I do. I never intended to stay in public accounting. Like many, I just thought I would try it for a year or two. Thirty years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love helping my clients, mentoring younger team members, recruiting new talent, continually learning new things, and representing the firm in the community.