“This is not your typical public accounting firm.” So says Shelly Casella-Dercole — and she should know, as the partner who had a major hand in building Eder, Casella & Co. into the multidimensional practice it is today. “We have an energetic and committed staff that really care about the people behind the numbers. We carefully pick our employees not only so we have the best and brightest, but also so we maintain a positive work environment, which then translates to a great experience for clients.”
Casella-Dercole joined the firm in 1998, and her name went on the door in 1999. She now serves as the Managing Partner of the firm.“As a business owner myself, I understand the complexities and challenges business owners face, and I strive to add value by helping clients understand their financial statements, manage tax consequences, and clearly see the financial and tax ramifications — both positive and negative — of decisions they make,” she explains. “Without good financial information, it’s like driving a car blind, but with good information, clients are able to maximize profits.”
She also appreciates that great businesspeople need to focus on their own craft, not the intricacies of the tax code. “These are the clients that need us the most and are very fulfilling to work with — it feels great to do our small part to help them succeed,” Casella-Dercole says.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University, Casella-Dercole was an auditor with KPMG in Chicago, and earned her CPA in 1998. Returning to her hometown of McHenry, she took an opportunity to join a small and growing firm where she could make a strong, positive impact. “While working for a large multinational firm out of college was a great experience, the clients I work with now are so much more rewarding,” she admits. “They are not only clients, but also friends. I’ve attended birthday parties and weddings. I look forward to seeing them and finding out what is going on in their lives. And importantly, knowing them as people helps me to better serve them as a trusted advisor.”
A member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Illinois CPA Society, the mother of two also serves the community in various roles, including Treasurer for Village of Ringwood; Director of American Community Bank & Trust; Board Member and Member of the Planned Giving Advisory Council for Journeycare Foundation and is a past president of Rotary Club of McHenry – Sunrise. It’s all part of her hectic schedule, where each day brings something new and interesting. “I think I learn something new almost every day, whether it is a new tax law or accounting rule or something beyond our profession,” she says. “The most interesting things I learn are from my clients — situations that have happened to them in business. Or really, just learning about each individual business. There’s nothing more interesting than having a passionate business owner take you on a tour of their operations.”
Get to Know Shelly — Five Facts:
1. My first accounting job was… “At my dad’s hardwood flooring business in Barrington, when I was a teenager. I was good at math and my Dad — who is excellent at hardwood flooring — despised the paperwork and numbers. So he hired me, gave me a little desk in his office, and I kept his books manually in these old ledger books.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I always wanted to be a teacher growing up, so probably that’s what I would be doing.”
3. I’m motivated by… “Time. Life is short and I like to take advantage of every minute I have.”
4. One lesson I learned from my parents and grandparents that guides me today… “Don’t do anything in life you wouldn’t be proud to have everyone read about on the front page of the newspaper. That doesn’t mean always conform, but means be proud of who you are, what you do and what you believe in.”
5. My hero is… “My mom. She always worked hard, went to her job no matter what and gave everything she had and more to my brother and me. She never got the opportunity to go to college, but she made sure that my brother and I did. She’s still my biggest fan today — even during those times she probably shouldn’t be.”
John Albanese joined Eder, Casella & Co. in 1999, right after earning his Bachelor of Arts in Business Accounting from Trinity International University, and made partner at the age of 26. The McHenry native has built his reputation serving a variety of clients in both audit and tax capacities, developing into a go-to for construction companies.
“I love the fast-paced environment and the people we work with, both the staff and our clients,” Albanese says. “I like meeting with our new clients and working with them to customize our services to what is best for their situation.”
It was a career trajectory he admittedly didn’t expect growing up (he dreamed of being a pro baseball player) — it wasn’t until college that he locked in on accounting. “My college advisor suggested it, so I went for it,” he says, adding with a smile, “It certainly worked out okay.”
These days, Albanese heads up the firm’s tax department. The self-professed sports nut is also a baseball coach for the Pro Player Hurricanes, where he has coached his two sons, Jackson and Ryan. (He also has a daughter, Brooklyn.)
Coaching definitely fits his M.O. — when asked about what he most enjoys about helping his accounting clients, he’s quick to answer, “Explaining things in a way they understand it. We work really hard to meet the client where they are at, situationally speaking.”
Get to Know John — Five Facts:
1. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “Yes, numbers can seem boring, but once you understand them, they can really help you run your business.”
2. My first job was… “I worked for the City of McHenry street division, and sometimes I had to clean up roadkill.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Playing sports myself, and watching my kids play. I really look forward to my kids’ baseball games, basketball games, and cross-country races.
4. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… “Don’t delay — don’t wait too long after college to take it.”
Cheryden Juergensen, CPA, has been with Eder, Casella & Co. since 2002, earning Partner status in 2013. An audit specialist with nearly 20 years of experience, she researches new auditing standards and implementation, and serves as the firm’s quality control partner, ensuring that the team follows proper procedures in all financial statements. “I work with our non-profits and governmental clients, but also several small businesses,” she explains.
With a Bachelor of Science degree from Trinity International University, the married mother of two, who grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, says it’s absolutely critical that all client relationships be built on integrity. “We strive for excellence in all of our work and customer service,” Juergensen states. “I try to put myself in each client’s shoes and understand their concerns, goals, etc. There are a lot of white and black issues in accounting, of course, but there are many others that present options to consider.”
Outside of the office, Juergensen volunteers at her church, serves as the treasurer for both the McHenry Area Rotary Club and the McHenry Area Rotary Club Foundation and volunteers for the GFOA Certificate of Achievement Program’s Special Review Committee. But as for her first professional love, accounting, she recommends it highly as a course of study. “I think an accounting degree offers you more opportunities for a rewarding career than any other degree,” she contends. “Every industry and company needs an accountant, and the types of accounting positions are endless — public, private, cost, forensic, financial planner, governmental, CFO, internal auditor, you name it.”
Get to Know Cheryden — Five Facts
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d want to be an interior designer. I’m not sure if I would be good at it, but I love to decorate my house.”
2. My first job was… “Telemarketing. It was fun and I was actually good at it. I made some good commissions.”
3. People would be surprised to know… “I need a calculator to do most math. Despite being a CPA, I can’t do math in my head.”
4. My favorite inspirational quote is… “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter” — Francis Chan
5. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Watching my boys play soccer, and attending sporting events with my family.”
One word to describe Tony Michelotti? Driven. The Spring Grove, Illinois native earned his Masters in Accountancy Degree from Western Illinois University and passed the CPA exam in 2009, joining Eder, Casella & Co. that same year.
A partner at the firm, he works with a variety of clients, everything from income tax to auditing, and is a go-to person for helping small businesses set up and understand QuickBooks and accounting systems.
“I’m committed to helping our clients in any way our firm can,” the Illinois CPA Society and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants member says. “Our service is second to none, and I believe that our clients value that about us the most. We’re dedicated to meeting needs, whether that be navigating the complex tax code to assisting with a critical business decision.”
Michelotti, who is married with one child, knew early on that accounting was his calling. “I have always been a numbers guy, so an accountant seemed to be a natural fit,” he admits. At Eder, Casella, he was instantly impressed with the office culture and considers it an ongoing strength. “We have a small firm feel, but a large-firm knowledge base,” he says. “And we’ve kept the family culture even through our growth into the largest accounting firm in McHenry County.”
Get to Know Tony — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d want to be an attorney or sports agent.”
2. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Golfing, or spending time with family and friends.”
3. The advice I’d give to aspiring accountants is… “Always try to expand your knowledge base, take in as much information as you can. You should never stop learning.”
4. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… “Start taking the test while you’re still in school and complete it as soon as possible after graduation. It’s much easier to study when you’re still in ‘school mode’ and have much more time on your hands. It’s difficult to devote the time necessary to the exam when you’re working.”
5. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “With a diverse client base, you never know what the day will hold. The biggest myth about accountants is that we sit in a room, don’t talk to anyone and just crunch numbers day in and day out.”
With a deep-rooted knowledge in pensions, Kevin Smith is Eder, Casella & Co.’s in-house specialist when it comes to accounting and auditing police and fire pension funds. The partner joined the firm in 2007, and in addition to those funds handles a wide variety of duties. “I prepare business and individual tax returns; handle audits, reviews and compilations for local governments, not-for-profits and businesses; and prepare monthly, quarterly and annual accounting work,” he says.
Smith graduated with a Bachelors in Accounting Degree from Northern Illinois University in 2007, and earned his CPA in 2010. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Illinois CPA Society and its Governmental Report Review Committee. “I think I’m personable and easy to get along with, which goes a long way, especially during audits — since that process isn’t something a client generally looks forward to, anything that makes it a more pleasant experience is a plus.”
Accounting wasn’t always the plan for Smith, who grew up in the Freeport, Illinois area. “I started in college on the path to becoming an engineer,” he recalls. “But between the extensive science classes, which I ended up not really liking, the course load, along with playing baseball my first semester, that route just didn’t work out. However, I had always liked math, and my grandfather had also worked in the accounting field. So I took a few classes and ended up really liking it.”
As for Eder Casella & Co., the married father of two has been impressed with the firm since he first started as an intern. “One of our biggest strengths is that we do a lot of different things well,” he says. “A majority of the employees here have experience in tax, audit, and monthly/quarterly accounting, instead of just focusing only in one area. This approach helps everyone be better overall accountants, because they are able to look at things from various angles.”
Get to Know Kevin — Five Facts:
1. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “Especially in our office, you get to work with a lot of different types of clients, which is interesting. If you’re bored during a tax season, then you’re just doing something wrong.”
2. My first job was… “A telemarketing company, at 16, selling phone service.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Going out to eat, trying different craft beers, lifting weights, playing sports — pretty much doing anything with my family, especially my sons.”
4. I’d like to be remembered as… “Just as an overall good person. I’ve never been one that needs to be in the spotlight.”
5. The advice I’d give to aspiring accountants is… “In the real world, everything is not going to have an exact ‘yes or no’ answer like the tests you take in school. I think that was one of the harder things for me to adjust to when I first started.”
A CPA since 1999, Kathy Naughton joined Eder, Casella & Co. in 2007, after teaching accounting at a community college for many years, among other accounting-related endeavors. At the firm, she fulfills accounting needs for clients in various manufacturing and service-oriented businesses. “I also prepare and review individual, partnership, and corporate income tax returns, and conduct audits of school district, governments and non-profit entities,” Naughton adds.
With a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration/Accounting from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Naughton — also a member of the Illinois CPA Society and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants — says her former life as a college instructor has paid dividends at Eder, Casella. “I do think my teaching background tends to help me in explaining complicated tax scenarios, so a client is able to better understand his or her options,” she says. “At our firm, clients also get the benefit of the people who work here, all committed professionals who work in a collaborative way to provide the best service possible. The firm is committed to the accounting profession. Management sets high standards, which benefit our firm as well as our clients.”
Get to Know Kathy — Five Facts:
1. I like to help clients… “Improve their bookkeeping to be more efficient and to provide more useful information for business decisions.”
2. My career highlight so far… “Besides passing the CPA exam on the first attempt, landing a job at Eder, Casella & Co. has been the highlight.”
3. I became an accountant because… “I always liked working with details. I took bookkeeping and accounting in high school, and knew that was what I wanted to do.”
4. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d be a teacher.”
5. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Hiking and biking.”
Since joining the firm in 2005, CPA Michelle Vicencio has worn a number of hats at Eder, Casella & Co. — figuratively, at least. “When first joining the team, what I worked on depended on the time of year — winter and spring, I wore my tax hat, and the summer, it’s my auditor hat,” she says. “But now, my auditor hat tends to be on all year long as the Not-for-Profit Manager.” Throughout the year she wears her community service hat as she serves on the board of the Volunteer Center McHenry County.
As a manager, Michelle has clients she works with on a monthly or quarterly basis, helping prepare bank reconciliations and other accounting duties, often on-site. “I’ve become a go-to person for old and new clients alike who have bank recs that need to be sorted and fixed,” she says. “I also try to make sure to explain what I am doing as I am fixing or helping with a situation, so they learn and make sure they can do it again after I leave.”
Michelle, who holds a Bachelors of Science in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University and is a member of both The American Institute of CPAs and the Illinois CPA Society, says one strength of the firm is the variety of services it can offer. “For example, we have the ability to help with not only the records and tax returns, but also payroll and any audits they would need,” she points out.
The married mother of one originally discovered accounting in her sophomore year of high school. “In the accounting class, we had to piece together business records for a business that had lost a lot of stuff in a fire,” she recalls. “It was intriguing and fun to work backward and get everything in order.”
Michelle appreciates the constant challenge the accounting profession offers. “Accounting can be like a big puzzle,” she says. “We have to take a look at what people have done and figure out the issues. It’s always so satisfying when a job is finally complete and you help the client learn something new.”
Get to Know Michelle — Five Facts:
1. I’m inspired by… “My husband. We complement each other, and he picks up the slack when our schedules get crazy and I start to get overwhelmed.”
2. My first job was… “I worked at a flower shop. I enjoyed running the cash register and making some floral arrangements. My least favorite part was cleaning out the cooler every Sunday and when the delivery of roses came in. We would dethorn them and I’d get poked every time.”
3. People would be surprised to know… “I love to hike. We go to Sedona every year and pick new trails each time to challenge ourselves.”
4. When I was a kid, I wanted to be… “An interior designer. That was after watching ‘Trading Spaces’ on TLC when I was growing up. That is so far from reality though! It’s a lot harder than it seems. Our house has some very plain walls because I can’t visualize it all together.”
5. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… ““Keep trying and don’t let it discourage you. Notecards and flash cards with help from my husband really is what helped me through — that and a lot of chocolate!”
In 2007, Katie Miller officially joined Eder, Casella & Co., shortly after finishing her Master of Professional Accountancy Degree at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
A manager at the firm, Miller does audits and monthly/quarterly accounting for a range of clients that includes non-profits, school districts, villages, townships, and fire districts.
“I also audit financial statements of governments and non-profits, and do key tasks like preparing bank reconciliations and accruals,” Miller says. A CPA since May 2007, Miller is a member of the Illinois CPA Society. She also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from Columbia College, Missouri, and a Masters of Professional Accountancy from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The McHenry native, who attended McHenry East High School, is married with two children.
Get to Know Katie — Three Facts:
1. My first job was… “Associate for Jewel Osco.”
2. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Being with my children.”
3. My advice for passing the CPA exam is… “Study!”
Since 2005, Amanda Ryan has been a fixture at Eder, Casella & Co. Over that time, she’s gained a vast range of experience and knowledge that she now shares with the firm’s new recruits. “I assist with training new employees, participate in our mentor program, and I’m involved in scheduling, which assists the partners in managing the time of all employees,” she explains.
That’s in addition to Amanda’s array of duties, including income tax return preparation, tax planning, accounting services, and compilation preparation. Her secret to working through the various challenges? Patience to always seek out the right answer and understand the situation. “It’s very satisfying when I’m able to assist someone and be a positive part of their day,” the Harvard, Illinois native says. “At our firm, we are proud of our great attention to detail, treating clients as we would want to be treated.”
Amanda earned a Bachelors of Science and a Masters of Business Administration from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, graduating in 2006. During her studies, she interned with Eder, Casella & Co. A member of the Illinois CPA Society, she also is a past treasurer and current member of the Rotary Club of Woodstock, where she lives with her husband Daniel (her best friend and high-school sweetheart) and daughters Brooklyn and Charlotte.
When she’s not at work, you’ll probably find Amanda outdoors — from April through November, at least. “Almost anything that you can do outdoors in the summer is what I enjoy,” she says, “from camping, swimming, hiking, to water skiing — although I’ve only done that once, I really liked it — and just being in the sun.”
Get to Know Amanda — Five Facts:
1. People would be surprised to know… “I played golf and softball at the Division 2 collegiate level.”
2. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a… “Zookeeper.”
3. I’m motivated by… “My family; they make me want to be the best I can be and to live each day to the fullest. It is very satisfying to be able to care for them and provide for them.”
4. My favorite musical acts are… “It really depends on my mood, but most often I can be found dancing in my chair in my office to country music — Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church.”
5. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because… “Spend a day in our office… and you won’t think accountants are boring.”
“My parents were great examples to me and my three sisters,” says CPA Kelly Swisher. “They showed us that hard work and generosity matters. They taught us how to be motivated, told us we should follow our dreams, and also encouraged us to enjoy life.”
Those lessons eventually led Swisher from Rockford, Illinois, where she grew up and attended high school, to college, where she earned a Bachelors of Science in Accounting from Northern Illinois University in 2006 and a Masters of Accounting Science from the school a year later. She joined Eder, Casella & Co. in 2008, and is a manager working on tax returns, and monthly and quarterly accounting, while also offering QuickBooks assistance to business clients. “One of my strengths is I can easily adapt and work in many different accounting software platforms,” she says.
Swisher, who is a member of the Illinois CPA Society and the Barrington Breakfast Rotary, enjoys the problem-solving nature of client relationships. “I enjoy helping clients who have accounting problems, a situation where I can come in to fix issues,” the married mother of three says. “It is also great to help clients with their accounting efficiencies — anything to help the client save time and money. Accounting is like a puzzle you have to figure out, with many moving pieces, and it feels great when the puzzle is solved.”
Get to Know Kelly — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d be a real estate agent — a house flipper.”
2. I’m inspired by… “My family. They are my biggest cheerleaders. Now that I’m a mom, I feel it is so important to lead by example.”
3. My first job was… “I started babysitting when I was 12. Playing with the kids was fun; changing diapers and cleaning up, not so much.”
4. People would be surprised to know… “I played on my college soccer team for four years.”
5. The advice I’d give to aspiring accountants is… “Don’t worry, it will all add up in the end.”
It pays to know a good accountant — as a family member of CPA and tax specialist Adam Coffey discovered. “He had received a notice from the IRS assessing additional tax, as well as interest and penalties for the tax year at issue,” Adam recalls. “He was extremely upset and distraught with the prospect of owing the IRS, as anyone would be.”
Swinging into action, Adam compiled the information necessary to reply to the notice, and in the end, was able to successfully dispute the notice in totality — thereby saving his family member a significant amount of money. “I’ll never forget the phone call to let him know … he was very happy, as you can imagine.”
Coffey, who went to Northern Illinois University to earn a master’s in accounting with a tax emphasis before passing the CPA exam, joined Eder, Casella & Co. in May of 2018. Adam stays active in the community through various activities with his young son and daughter and as a member of the Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club.
Get to Know Adam — Seven Facts:
1. My first job was … “Washing dishes and other cleaning and busboy duties at my aunt and uncle’s restaurant where my mom also worked at. I enjoyed working with my older brother and family and the time we got to spend together.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant … “I would probably be an engineer of some sort. I like math and knowing how things work and being able to fix them myself — but being an accountant, that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like!”
3. People would be surprised to know … “I’m a musician and play in a band with two of my best friends. I’ve played the guitar for over 20 years and taught myself how to play the piano … albeit not very well, by any means.”
4. My favorite musical acts are … “My musical tastes are wide ranging and all across the board, but are generally dictated by the mood I’m in. Some of my favorite bands are Nirvana, The Beatles and Tom Petty.”
5. Accounting is fun (yes, really!) because … “It’s the language of business, and knowing where your money is being earned and spent is vital to help you keep as much of it as possible.”
6. I look most forward to … “Raising our children to be the best people we can, to see how they grow up and develop and what they become later in their lives.”
7. My favorite inspirational quote is … “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
Consider Rachael Lesperance the “Swiss Army knife” of Eder, Casella & Co. Her versatility has proven invaluable since she joined the firm in 2011, always at the ready to jump in whenever and wherever needed. “I particularly enjoy working with local small businesses, whether it be assisting with their financial statements or finding ways to minimize their tax burden. Investing in the community that way is important to me.”
In addition, Lesperance provides monthly, quarterly, and annual accounting services to a variety of private businesses. “On any given day, you can find me preparing financial statements for a local small business, preparing a tax return for an individual, or assisting clients to project their tax liability and avoid any penalties and interest.” the Crystal Lake native says.
Lesperance landed at Eder, Casella & Co. after earning her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Accounting from Taylor University in Indiana, and earned her CPA in 2013. Although she worked remotely for Eder, Casella & Co., from Michigan for a few years, she was happy to return to McHenry and purchase her first home in historic downtown McHenry.
When asked what drew her to accounting, Lesperance cites her “Type A” personality. “I became an accountant because I like the definiteness of accounting,” she says. “I appreciate how there is usually a specific solution that has to be found in accounting — i.e. Assets = Liabilities + Equity — rather than developing an abstract idea. Each piece of the puzzle fits in a specific place.”
Get to Know Rachael — Five Facts:
1. The highlight of my career so far… “Passing the CPA exam on the first try.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant… “It’s too hard to choose! Travel, run a farm stand or bed and breakfast, work at a National Park…”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Traveling, cooking, reading, gardening, and working to restore my 1917 house with my husband.”
4. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a… “Weather reporter/storm chaser. Weather still fascinates me.”
5. My favorite musical acts are… “Josh Garrels, Over the Rhine and (my guilty pleasure) Taylor Swift.”
“I love numbers and I am constantly trying to think of different ways to save money,” says Ethan Poglese when asked why he was drawn to the accounting field. Poglese – who joined the firm in 2015 after earning a Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Corporate Finance from Northern Michigan University – focuses on individual, business and not-for-profit tax returns and audits, as well as monthly accounting needs and QuickBooks optimization.
“Our firm’s biggest strength is its diversification of clients,” Poglese says. “Our highest priority is quality. Everything is reviewed many times over before it goes out the door. And we have a team of extremely skilled people in many areas, so if any of us are not sure of the answer on how to do a particular transaction, it’s always very easy to collaborate and find the correct way to do it.”
Via accounting, the Michigan native loves helping people fix problems — something that came in very handy for his own family. “My stepfather had a staff member who stole thousands of dollars from him, and I helped him save his business,” he recalls. “Numbers never lie. People can say whatever they want, but there is always a number trail to follow. It’s like a puzzle you try to solve that changes every day.”
Get to Know Ethan — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant … “I’d want to be a trader or a broker.”
2. I’m motivated by … “My mother, because we grew up without money. She put herself through medical school with five children at 40 years old. If she can go through that challenge, I know I can pass four CPA exams.”
3. My first job was … “I washed dishes for a restaurant on the beach of Marquette, Michigan — it was called The Shores.”
4. When I’m not at work, I enjoy … “Fishing, snowboarding, wake-boarding, basketball, flag football, hunting, poker, golfing and volleyball. Basically, I’ll play any sport other than baseball.”
5. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a … “A quarterback for the Detroit Lions. But from the seventh grade on, I knew I wanted to be an accountant.”
As the former baseball pitcher for Division II Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, Chase Blazier is the “ringer” for various after-work sports leagues, but there’s more to him than his athleticism. Blazier joined Eder, Casella & Co. in 2015, after interning for two summers at the firm. Patient, knowledgeable and “always happy,” according to his colleagues, he handles everything from audits to taxes — and reports that he can finally “work a 10-key calculator without looking at it… well, most of the time.”
At Winona, Blazier earned a Bachelor’s in Accounting, choosing the field after taking two accounting classes in high school and, in his words, “loving them.” The subject certainly was more enticing than his first paying job, which involved walking through bean and cornfields in his hometown of Harvard and picking up all the larger rocks. “I got a killer tan and was allowed to drive a tractor,” he says. “But my least favorite thing about it? Picking up the rocks.”
Get to Know Chase — Five Facts:
1. The highlight of my career so far… “Winning the 2015 Eder, Casella & Co. Golf Open.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I’d want to be an athletic director or baseball coach at the collegiate level.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Staying active playing baseball and basketball, going biking, and working out. I also enjoy reading.”
4. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a… “Cowboy in the rodeo.”
5. I look forward to… “Traveling — I would like to eventually make it to every continent.”
Born in Transylvania, Romania, Simona is always happy to talk about her birthplace — “When asked about my background, I am always happy to share my views of Transylvania — a strange region, yet beautiful in its simplicity. It is the breathtaking scenery that it should be known for, not the vampires” she patiently explains with a smile.
Since joining Eder, Casella & Co. in 2015, Simona has worked on accounting, taxes and auditing. “I like the small-firm atmosphere, where managers and partners are genuinely friendly and make sure that employees feel like a valued part of the team,” she says. “I think we are very successful in providing personalized services to our clients. While clients have a familiar contact person they can get in touch with, they also benefit from the involvement of management on each job we do. On each assignment, there is a staff accountant, a manager, and a partner involved.”
Simona — a member of the Illinois CPA Society — earned a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy from Northern Illinois University and was motivated to pursue her career after seeing accountants in action. “While working as a bookkeeper for a small company, I had a very positive experience with the CPA firm that was doing the quarterly accounting,” the married mother of one recalls. “It was an inspiration to become an accountant and see things from a different perspective.”
Clients appreciate Natalia Turturica’s precision and excellence when preparing tax forms and running audits — but their gain is the government’s loss. “If I wasn’t an accountant, I think I’d be working for the FBI as a spy, or handling drones in the military,” she reveals.
Turturica attended college at the University of South Carolina, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting. Fluent in four languages, the mother of twin daughters has found an interesting niche thus far as an accountant. “I have done a lot of audits for fire departments,” she says, although since joining Eder, Casella & Co. as a Senior Accountant in March of 2019, her roll call of clients and businesses has rapidly expanded.
Admittedly, she has zero regrets about her ultimate career destination. “I don’t think it is for just anyone, but it’s definitely not boring,” she says of number crunching. “I see accounting as a puzzle. If you truly enjoy the search for the missing pieces and putting it all together, you get to have a clear picture. There is excitement and a great sense of accomplishment that comes with that.”
Get to Know Natalia — Four Facts:
1. My first job was … “As a barista at Costa Coffee in London, UK. I loved learning the craft of brewing truly good coffee — but I did not like having to start work at 5 a.m.”
2. When I’m not at work, I enjoy … “Going out to try new foods and drinks. Also CrossFit, lifting weights, meditation, and a lot of different activities with my daughters. We go to theaters, and we like to explore cities, especially places that have anything to do with art.”
3. My favorite inspirational quotes are … “Amor fati,” a Latin phrase that translate as, “Love your fate.” Also, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, is to choose one’s own way,” written by Viktor Frankl
4. I want to be remembered … “As a kind, reliable, trustworthy person.”
When asked what she’d be doing if she hadn’t gone into accounting, Lisa Danhauer has an apt answer. “I’d be a detective,” she admits.
Perhaps she is living out that dream in a matter of speaking already, considering that seeking out answers to often complicated financial questions is at the heart of accounting. “Accounting is somewhat like a puzzle and you’re trying to find where each of the missing pieces fit,” she says.
Danhauer, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Valparaiso University, started at Eder Casella & Co. as an intern in the summer of 2016 before coming aboard in a permanent position. Her demeanor instantly won her respect among her teammates. “Lisa is positive and pleasant, and her calm nature is a big asset when working with clients to help them through difficult situations,” says managing partner Shelly Casella-Dercole.
In turn, the Barrington High School grad has appreciated the environment of the firm. “I really enjoy the people at Eder, Casella & Co. They’re all personable and easy to get along with,” she explains. “I also like that each day brings something different — in this career, you’re not just doing the same thing day in and day out. Every day is interesting.”
Get to Know Lisa — Four Facts:
1. People would be surprised to know… “I’ve spent a significant portion of my life in a pool. I swam competitively from kindergarten through high school and played water polo.”
2. My first job was… “Working as a lifeguard at a park district pool. I liked being in the sun, but doing the same thing every day became boring.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Being outside and playing with my dog.”
4. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an… “Interior designer. I loved watching Trading Spaces on TLC when I was younger.”
Sometimes, accounting runs in the family. Take the case of the Blaziers, as Randi Blazier joined her brother Chase at Eder, Casella & Co. after a successful summer internship in 2016.
Now, Randi — who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Monmouth College in Illinois — has been collaborating with a wide variety of the firm’s clients. “I enjoy solving puzzles and this translates into my work ethic,” she says. “I’ll always try my hardest to figure out the best possible solution to any problem that arises.”
Her career decision was solidified in a high school accounting class. “My teacher taught me that accounting can be fun and encouraged me to pursue it,” Randi recalls. And she persevered as her college classmates wilted under the pressure. “Many people I attended college with immediately dropped their accounting major when they took a class with a challenging professor,” she says. “My advice would be to stick with it! Even if it can be challenging, it’s also rewarding to be an accountant.”
Now that she has landed a role at Eder, Casella, Managing Partner Shelly Casella-Dercole says the Harvard, Illinois native has quickly established herself as a key player on the team. “Randi is fun and extremely intelligent,” she notes. “Not only is she a knowledgeable accountant, but she also knows a lot about history and is really well-rounded. She is always happy and helpful.”
Admittedly, however, there’s one area Randi does struggle with — while her brother is a former college baseball pitcher, Randi doesn’t necessarily bring any “ringer” qualities to the firm’s extracurricular outings. “I’m consistently the absolute worst at any golf outing or athletic event,” she says, laughing. “But consistency is key!”
Get to Know Randi — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I would be an interior designer. I love watching HGTV and thinking of ideas I would use for my own house.”
2. I’m inspired by… “My parents. They have always been my motivation because I’ve always seen how caring they were and I aspired to be like them.”
3. My first job was… “Rock picking for a local farm (which was also her brother Chase’s first gig). My least favorite thing was having to walk through fields picking up rocks — but my favorite thing was the nice tan I would get from being outside all day.”
4. People would be surprised to know… “I may be taller (she’s 5’9”) but I’m terrified of heights.”
5. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a… “Veterinarian, so I could play with animals all day long.”
After two summers as an intern., Mary Lollino knew she had chosen her career path well. “My internships at Eder, Casella & Co. made me realize I definitely wanted to be an accountant,” the Arlington Heights, Illinois native says.
The original inspiration for her accounting pursuit, however, came much younger. “My dad was a CPA, and I loved going to work with him and playing on his adding machine.,” she recalls. “I was always pretty good at math in school because he would give me problems to do for ‘fun,’ and eventually, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
As a staff accountant, Lollino — who graduated with a Master of Accounting Science degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — likes to dig into the inner workings of companies in a variety of industries, and to get to know each of her clients. “Being an accountant helps you understand so many different areas of business, and I love that my job exposes me to different types of clients that I can learn from in return,” she explains. “And at Eder, Casella, right from the start everyone was so welcoming and helpful.”
Still, however, those closest to her had some doubts … that is, until they saw her passion for the job in action. “A lot of my family and friends were surprised that I wanted to be an accountant because I talk too much and they assumed that I would just be sitting at a desk by myself literally counting numbers,” Lollino laughs. “But people don’t realize that you are constantly interacting with co-workers and clients — and doing much more than using a calculator.”
Get to Know Mary — Five Facts:
1. My first job was… “At a Chinese restaurant answering phones and working the cash register throughout high school. I loved getting a free meal every time I worked, but also hated those free meals because I couldn’t stand to eat Chinese food for a while after I stopped working there.”
2. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I would love to start a restaurant with my family and make family recipes. It is something that we always talk about and I think it would be awesome to start a business together since we’re all so close.”
3. I’m inspired by… “My parents. They motivate me because they always taught me to take pride in anything I do as long as I give it my all, and I think that is a great way to live a successful and happy life.”
4. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Playing tennis, going on walks, cooking, and catching up with friends and family.”
5. My heroes are… “My grandparents, because they are the definition of the American Dream. They came to the U.S. from Italy with nothing and worked hard to create wonderful lives for themselves and their families.”
Many accountants will swear to you that the profession was their calling, and that they knew relatively early on that was the career they were going to pursue. Eder, Casella’s Joe Rondo isn’t one of them.
“Going into college, I wanted to major in something related to business, but I had no idea which area,” the University of Illinois graduate admits. “I heard that accounting was boring, but my view changed after my introductory class — my teacher danced left and right singing, ‘Debits to the left, credits to the right…’ That class and teacher were my inspiration to become an accountant.”
Although he won’t re-enact the dance on command — unless you’re a really good client, of course — Joe brings his eye for detail and easygoing nature to all his interactions inside and outside the office. “My primary focus is conducting various aspects of audits, as well as aiding with accounting services for our clients,” he explains.
Rondo earned his Bachelor of Science in Accountancy in 2015, the same year he joined Eder, Casella & Co. as an intern. The Lindenhurst native, who is married, added a Master of Accounting Science degree in 2016, also from the University of Illinois, then came on board with Eder, Casella full time. “The company provides a very open and friendly work environment,” he says of his experience so far. “I think that’s reflected in our client interactions. I’ve most enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with a variety of people and businesses, and experience the challenges that those differing situations can present.”
Get to Know Joe — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t an accountant… “I would be a physical therapist. When I was younger, I wanted to play soccer professionally, but I quickly found that wouldn’t be an option with my bad knees.”
2. My first job was…. “a host at Red Lobster. My favorite part of the job was interacting with different customers. But I wasn’t a fan of having to always work past 10 p.m.”
3. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “weightlifting, biking, and golfing with friends and family.”
4. My favorite musical act is… “Twenty One Pilots.”
5. One lesson I learned from my parents that guides me today… “During middle school, my mom taught me to plan ahead and always be organized, that lesson still guides me today in my everyday life at home and on the job.”
Andrea Doerdelmann is every payroll client’s preferred Eder, Casella & Co. team member, or she’s at least their employees’ favorite– whether they know it or not. Why? She makes sure everyone gets paid.
“Andrea is the lead team member of our payroll department,” firm partner Shelly Casella-Dercole says. “She is great at following through with clients and resolving payroll issues. She is also excellent at adapting to various client accounting systems to get payroll done on the client’s system rather than ours.”
Doerdelmann, who has been with the firm since 2007 when she started as an Administrative Assistant, holds an Associate in Arts degree from Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, with the goal of completing her Bachelor’s degree at Columbia College in Crystal Lake. A member of the American Payroll Association with CPP certification (Certified Payroll Professional) — the Schaumburg native insists on always looking at her clients’ big-picture needs. “I want to offer ways to reduce workload, help streamline their payroll processes, and strengthen their internal controls,” she says of her mission, which aligns with Eder, Casella & Co.’s mission.
The numbers orientation stems from her father, a “finance guy,” as Doerdelmann describes him. When my dad was in the Army his main job was preparing payroll which then led to other finance positions throughout his career outside of the Army. “My parents taught me to treat others as you want to be treated, be honest, and have a good work ethic,” she says. Those are lessons that she and her husband of over 30 years have passed down to their grown children — although she has discovered that inspiration is a two-way street. “My kids inspire me every day,” Doerdelmann says. “They share their stories, giving me different perspectives.”
Get to Know Andrea — Five Facts:
1. My first job was… “At a clothing store office. My favorite part — balancing the cash drawer every night and of course…all of the clothes! My least favorite — doing inventory and working weekends and holidays.”
2. When I was a kid, I wanted to be… “An interior designer. Today I think I’d be good at flipping houses. I love to decorate my house and have a knack for landscaping design as well.”
3. If I wasn’t working at the firm, I’d be… “Traveling.”
4. My career highlight so far… “Passing the CPP exam the first time – there’s no way I’d want to take that exam again!”
5. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “spending time with my family, traveling, hiking, shopping”.
“Other than founder John Eder, Terri Jo O’Donnell is our longest-serving team member,” says partner Shelly Casella-Dercole of the firm’s secretary, who started in 1989. “Terri Jo knows everything about our business. She is a master at proofing audit reports to make sure our audit clients get the best possible audit report. She is also the go-to for almost everything in the office.”
O’Donnell’s main areas of emphasis are client relations and employee support. “I take pride in assisting clients with questions that they have,” the Marengo native says. “Clients tend to be leery of anything related to the government, so it feels good when I can relieve their anxiety by answering what I consider an easy question. As for employee support, I believe one of my main jobs is to help the accountants and support staff in any way to make their job easier. I try to help with anything that they ask — and I try to do it in a very timely manner.”
Prior to joining Eder, Casella & Co., O’Donnell worked in a bank’s mortgage department. Throughout her years at the firm, she has seen plenty of growth and change, but one thing has remained the same — the family-oriented atmosphere. “The managing partners realize that an employee’s family is most important, and are very accommodating to time off requests and emergencies, as well as also including family in various company functions,” she says. “It truly is a pleasure coming to work each day if you work with, and for, people that care about you.”
When not on the job, the widowed mother of two grown children — Ashley and Michael — enjoys “reading, walking my dogs, and spending time with my family, especially my two granddaughters,” she says. “There’s a quote I live by: ‘Enjoy life today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow is never promised.’”
Get to Know Terri Jo — Five Facts:
1. If I wasn’t working at the firm, I’d be… “A realtor.”
2. I’m motivated by… “My family. I have a good work ethic that I tried to instill in my children. I enjoy working, and I’ve done the best job that I can so that they have been able to reach some of their goals (college, careers, etc.).”
3. My first job was… “A cashier in a small department store in Marengo. I enjoyed working with customers and keeping the store neat and organized.”
4. People would be surprised to know… “I’m a huge NASCAR fan!”
5. My hero is… “My mom. She has been through a lot in childhood and adulthood, but she always made sure that my dad, brother, and I had what we needed. She’s always there for all of us, as well as my bosses and co-workers — she bakes for them.”
Say what you will about the benefits and pitfalls of being the boss’ daughter — Rachel Kahanec works hard to keep the firm on solid ground. “One of the things about working here that keeps me motivated is that my dad, John Eder, started this business right after I was born,” says Rachel Kahanec. “I have watched it grow and want to see it continue to succeed.”
Kahanec handles human resources and recruiting. “I really enjoy the college recruiting and building the Eder, Casella & Co team,” she says. “I took over this position from my mom in 2014, although I did get paid to shred paper here since I was a kid.”
Her Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Illinois State University and Masters from Adler University is an asset, according to managing partner Shelly Casella-Dercole. “This background definitely comes in handy when dealing with the ‘special kind of crazy’ we all are,” she jokes.
A sense of humor helps too — just ask Kahanec what her career highlight has been to this point. “Fixing the ice machine,” she says without hesitation. “Seriously, that was my first job when I started and I use that machine every day.”
As a recruiter for the firm, the married mother of two has a hand in maintaining the hard-working, yet fun, environment Eder, Casella & Co. is known for. “My favorite part of the job is going to the college career fairs to recruit interns and new full-time hires,” Kahanec says. “There is also a lot of support for employees. I’ve never felt like I’m bothering anyone when I have asked questions — that goes for not just the partners, but everyone on staff.”
Get to Know Rachel — Five Facts:
1. When I was a kid, I wanted to… “Take over my dad’s business — which is less funny now that I work for him.”
2. When I’m not at work, I enjoy… “Spending time with my family.”
3. My favorite famous quote is… “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
4. The word that best describes me… “Positive.”
5. If I wasn’t working at the firm, I’d be… “Is reading books and drinking wine a job?”