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From the farm to the Executive Board: CPA shares inspirational story

Written on Sep 6, 2018

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

It can be hard to see your destination when you’re just starting a journey in life.

There was a time that Darlene Finzer toiled on a farm in the hot sun for a penny a minute. It might have been easy then to see this adopted daughter of an abusive mother living in a broken home and think her potential was limited.

But Finzer, now a CPA, a principal at Rea & Associates and a member of OSCPA’s executive board, believes people can control their own destiny. At a recent event at Zane State University, she shared her own story of overcoming obstacles from a young age.

Finzer grew up in New Philadelphia, where she was adopted as a baby. From an early age, Finzer was abused by her adoptive mother. When Finzer was 12 years old, her parents went through a divorce. She eventually went to live with her father, which she had always wanted, but not until after a difficult two-year custody battle.

Darlene_Finzer“It was pretty rough going through that,” she said.

She grew up on her family farm, where her first job at age 7 was to help unload hay in the summer; she earned a mere 60 cents an hour. While on the farm, Finzer said she noticed how her father worked with others to help keep track of the financial information, including someone who would visit to help him balance the farm books.

“At the end of the year those farm books were used by my dad’s accountant to prepare their tax return,” she said. “I just always found that fascinating. Maybe it was because of the process and seeing how everything ties together; the allure of the orderly fashion.”

After high school, she was the first in her family to attend college. She paid for her college education almost entirely on her own, only receiving a $500 scholarship along the way.

“I thought that a two-year program would be sufficient for what I needed from my work life,” she said.

She went on to work at Rea & Associates as an administrative assistant in the tax department, reviewing individual tax returns for clerical errors.

“As I was working and seeing where I could go, I felt like I needed and wanted more from my life than working in that position,” she said.

Despite the lack of support from others in her life about pursuing more education, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree. But nothing worth having comes easy, and it took her four years to finish the last two years of school because she was also working full time.

Although she had her degree, Finzer still had to prove she was the best candidate for any available jobs. Rea wasn’t going to create a position for her.

“Then over the next several years I advanced from staff accountant to senior accountant, manager then senior manager,” she said. “Now 27 years later, I am at the level of principal within the firm.”

Finzer attributes her strong work ethic to growing up on a farm and stressed the importance of taking ownership of your decisions.

She told students at Zane State about the importance of believing in yourself and your abilities, even when it seems like no one else does.

“If it’s something you want to do or have a passion to do it, and you feel you have that drive in you, then you should go for it,” she said.

Reflecting on her career, Finzer said she never intentionally set out to be a leader, but it’s become a byproduct of her commitment to her work and a desire to get involved.

“I’ve gone from my first job of making 60 cents an hour to now earning a six-figure income,” she said. “So my message is this: has it always been easy? No. Will I continue to face struggles? Absolutely. There are always going to be obstacles. It’s not about if it’s someone else’s fault that something happened, it’s how you react to those situations. Because you are in control of your own destiny and where your life goes.”