Nellie Gomez to Retire After 42 Years at the Society

By:
Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Aug 23, 2019
Nellie Gomez - office

Committees Manager Nereida “Nellie” Gomez, a mainstay of the NYSSCPA for 42 years, has announced her retirement. Her last day in the office will be Friday, Sept. 27.

The response from Society leaders was swift and effusive—full of praise for her and sadness over her departure.

“Nellie always got it done,” said NYSSCPA Past President John J. Kearney, who served in 2004–2005.  “She worked well with everyone. I have nothing but positive things to say about Nellie, and it’s going to be a huge loss when she’s gone.” He added, “Her favorite line was, ‘I love my job,’ and that was terrific.”

Current NYSSCPA President Ita M. Rahilly said that working with Gomez has been an “absolute pleasure. She is always smiling, always ready to help. Anything she can do to make things go smoothly, she will do. … It amazes me how many members she knows.”

Other Society past presidents also had plenty of praise for Gomez.

“Nellie has always been one of my favorite people in the world; she has been a great support,” said Past President Richard E. Piluso, who served in 2011–2012. “She helped me through the process of becoming president-elect and president. She knew all the protocols and took me through them and made them seamless for me.” Piluso added that she was particularly successful in all the years that she organized the Society’s annual membership meeting.

Joseph M. Falbo Jr., who served as president in 2015–2016, said he met Gomez at a leadership conference when he was a young CPA: “She just made me feel like the most important person there when I wasn’t even 30 years old, in a room full of the lions in the profession.” Falbo added, “If I had only one phrase to sum her up, it would be ‘always members first.’ It didn’t matter what was needed, … she always took care of the members and the Society. She’s a nurturer and she took care of all of us. … On behalf of all the members who never even met her, she’s really made an impact on everyone’s professional life, and I can’t thank her enough.”

“Nellie has infused our organization with a passion for our membership that is contagious,” said NYSSCPA Executive Director Joanne. S. Barry. “She always placed our members first, built lifelong relationships with them and took pride in watching them ascend at the Society and in their careers. She made each member feel as though he or she were part of our community and not just a visitor from the outside world. As our business grew and became more complex, Nellie was a stable presence in her role with our members, always offering an astute perspective, a warm smile and a solution to a problem or a conflict. While working side by side for decades, Nellie and I raised our families as well. I will always treasure the stories she shared as each of her children reached a milestone; she is so proud of them. I will miss her terribly; the years flew by while we were having fun.”

Gomez’s colleagues in the Technical & Professional Resources department also spoke of all that she has done for members during her long tenure. Ernest “Ernie” J. Markezin, director of the department, said, “Her contribution is immeasurable. For CPAs, it’s like that goodwill asset on the balance sheet. It’s a big giant intangible—the Society wouldn’t be where it is without her.” Markezin, who was worked with Gomez for 18 years, said, “She was like the committee Sherpa,” helping committee chairs and members get where they needed to be. He also spoke of their close working relationship: “We were like our spouse opposites during the daytime. I would go into her office, and before I said anything, she was already saying it.”

“She has an insight, a sixth sense of how members are going to react,” said Keith Lazarus, assistant manager of the department. “She’s always there. She never turns anyone with a question away.” He added, “It’s very much fun to work with her. We joke, but ultimately we share the same goal of getting the job done in the best way possible.” (After her departure, Lazarus will be the Society’s point person for committees. He can be reached at klazarus@nysspca.org and 212-719-8378.) “I think she’s leaving a great legacy behind, with her dedication and professionalism,” he said. “If you have Nellie on your team, you just can’t lose.”

Gomez started at the Society in 1977 as a summer temp. “I was counting ballots, helping out in the mailroom,” she said. “From there, I moved to backup switchboard operator.” When she was asked to train someone else for a position in the typing pool, she went to the executive director at the time and spoke up: “If I’m qualified to train someone for the position, I’m qualified to have it.” She got the job. She still remembers the green, pink and yellow carbon paper forms that she typed out in those pre-computer days.

In time, she did some work for the CPA Journal, sent out invoices and started getting involved in committee work. “Officially, I got the [committees manager] title in the early ’90s, and that was it.” Gomez spent the next three decades as the go-to person for committees, Society protocols and much more.

When Gomez started, the Society had 119 committees, she said. “Committees were limited, so not everyone who applied was accepted. We used to have a Committee on Committee Operations, known as COCO, and we would go through a huge appointment process. We used to print out these binders and go name by name.” Notices were sent out by postal mail, Gomez said. “I got the paper cuts to prove it. … We used to have a competition to see who could stuff envelopes the fastest.”

Most of the committees were popular, she said, especially those focusing on tax and accounting and auditing. But over time, some committees were consolidated, and some were eliminated as they became less relevant to the core work of CPAs. She mentioned a few that are no longer around, such as Domestic Relations, Fiduciary Accounting, Mediation and Arbitration, Analytic Sampling and Quality Control.

“One trick when I started with committees was using my Rolodex copy of pictures of committee chairs and placing them with their names, and notes about each of them,” she said. “So once on the phone, I would flip to their card and have a visual of whom I was speaking with.”

When she started, at a time before teleconferencing, all committee members met in person. Gomez observed that one good thing about that time was that she “got to know people one on one. … People would come by after a meeting, come chitchat, show pictures of their grandchildren. … Now, with teleconferencing, you don’t always get to know the person.”

She also recalled enjoying getting to know Society members at conferences, “when you got to see members in a different atmosphere. We used to have a leadership conference; it was a social thing also. You would see them having drinks, playing piano. You got to see them in a different light.”

Throughout her 42 years at the Society—longer than one-third of its existence—Gomez has worked with three generations of CPAs. In one instance, it was three generations within one family. “A. Rick D’Arcangelo was a Society president [in 1979-1980], then I dealt with his son, James R. D’Arcangelo,” said Gomez. “Now his grandson, James Jr., is on a committee.” She has also worked at five different addresses. “I started at 600 Third Avenue, then moved to the Pan Am Building [now the MetLife Building], then 530 Fifth Avenue, then 3 Park Avenue, and I’m ending where accounting started, Wall Street.”

Asked about the biggest changes she has observed during her time at the Society, Gomez focused on women assuming leadership positions. “When we got the first female president [Marilyn Pendergast in 1994-95], it was like, wow. … There was a little cluster of powerful women. I would admire them, because the men would look at them [with awe]. Then the number of women would start growing more and more and more.”

Another change she has noticed is the role of younger members on committees. “There are a lot of younger members becoming chairs, moving up the ranks much quicker than in the past. That’s a good thing. And they’re very diverse, the committees.”

Among her most vivid memories are working on the Society Awards. “The awards are a big deal,” she said. Whenever a member she got to know well has been honored, “it’s like my child is getting an award.”

Gomez is looking forward to spending more time with her own children, grandchildren and husband. “After I leave, I will be doing volunteer work and spending more quality time with my best friend and husband Izzy, my daughters Stephanie and Sabrina, son Anthony, grandsons Ryu, Kevin, Khemoni and Derrick and sons-in-law Kowan and Harold,” she wrote in an email to committee members announcing her retirement.

Gomez received a slew of heartfelt responses. “I will miss you a lot,” wrote NYSSCPA Director-at-Large Elliot Hendler, a Society member since 1962. “You’ve been the heart and soul of the Society and invaluable not only to me, but also to its executive directors, officers, committee chairs and members, fellow staff, and who knows who else.” Several members responded with variations on “Oh no, say it ain’t so.” One member said he hadn’t planned to go to a meeting, but was going to come just to see her.

“I’m going to cherish these emails,” Gomez said.

Summing up her many years at the Society,  Gomez said, “I am very happy that I did what I did and accomplished what I accomplished.” She added, “It’s been fun. I refer to it as a roller-coaster,” with good days and challenging days. She spoke of Society members as  “an extended family. … We’ve sat down and talked about everything. It’s been a beautiful relationship with the members I hold dear to my heart.”

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