For 65 years, Helen Standiford has stuck to her work routine at Wegner CPAs, and that’s how she likes it.
“I just come to work, and go home at night,” Standiford said. “I like working and I like this.”
Before starting the job in August 1954, Standiford took bookkeeping classes at Baraboo High School, where she learned the job skills and found she enjoyed the profession. A friend of Standiford’s originally was hired for the position out of 10 other girls who applied, but she disliked the work.
“My girlfriend got it, and she didn’t even last a month,” Standiford said. “I was next on the list, I guess. So I went and interviewed, and here we are.”
Standiford said the work was a good fit for her.
“I just liked bookkeeping. I never liked secretarial work, because I couldn’t get the hang of shorthand,” she said. “I suppose I could have been a waitress; I didn’t really think I’d like being a teacher. It was nothing like the options they have today.”
Standiford never planned to still be working 65 years later at the company, which has locations in Baraboo, Reedsburg, Madison, Milwaukee, Janesville, New York and Washington, D.C.
“I didn’t expect to be here that long,” Standiford said. “I don’t know where the time went. It just disappeared.”
Katy Mering, a partner at Wegner CPAs, said Standiford is well known in the office, and plays an important role in bookkeeping operations. Standiford works with eight clients, a few of which she has worked with for almost 36 years.
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“She is a staple in the office. If we come into the office at 6:30 in the morning and Helen’s not here, we get worried. She’s always in in the morning,” Mering said. “Helen fills in, if we need something done. Some clients take longer, or bigger portions of time.”
Throughout Standiford’s time with the company, the name of the accounting firm and its partners has changed over the years, but she said she has been able to cope with them all. When she first took the job, the company was called John Hoppe CPA. She credited Hoppe with teaching her much of what she knows about the job now.
“John Hoppe was my first one; he’s where I learned all my tricks,” Standiford said. “Mr. Hoppe was one of these guys that would say, ‘This is a professional business.’ Things that went out of here need to look professional. So that’s the way I am today, a professional.”
Standiford said the hardest part of the job has been keeping up with changes in technology. When she started, all bookkeeping and tax documents were compiled by hand, and now everything is computerized. She said the newest software has been the hardest, but she has worked to learn all the other technology changes over the years.
“I always say, I wasn’t brought up on any of the computer stuff. I had to learn it from scratch,” Standiford said. “I still do a lot of my stuff the way I like doing it: paper and pencil.”
Standiford said she hasn’t thought about retirement and plans to work until she no longer can. She says she can’t imagine not working, and wants to remain active. She said around the time she celebrated 50 years at the company, Dave Muehl, a partner, ask if she planned to retire.
“I said, ‘I hadn’t considered it, unless you guys want me to retire. I’ll work as long as I can or you tell me I can’t work any longer,’” Standiford said. “And he said, ‘Well you won’t have to hear that from me.’”
Editor's note: This story was updated Aug. 16 to correct the name of a partner at the firm.