Death and taxes are the certainties of life, so goes the old proverb.
But longtime Oak Harbor accountant Kathy Jones was raised with a third inevitable life element — community service.
For the 30 years she’s been running her own firm, Jones Accounting Associates, she’s also been a familiar face at Oak Harbor school board meetings, at service club fundraisers and at St. Augustine Catholic Church.
Many times, she’s combined her financial skills with volunteerism.
“There are not many nonprofits that don’t have her name on it, whether it be to help start it as a 501-c3 or as a volunteer,” says her son, Brian Jones. “And to be able to run a small business in a small town for 30 years is a pretty outstanding feat.”
Okay, so maybe her son is biased.
But the many certificates of appreciation, awards and letters of thanks tucked inside her office in the corner of an Oak Harbor original homestead tell a similar story that Kathy Jones never stops moving.
Even at age 64.
And she’s about to get busier at her offices, 1199 SE Dock Street, just up the hill from the waterfront.
Her office is sending out reminders to some 800 clients that it’s that time of year again — tax time.
From Jan. 1 to April 15, her office becomes “wildly busy,” she says.
Her firm has five full-time staff most of the time, but that number doubles during tax season when they crunch numbers 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
But coming in to do taxes at Jones Accounting differs from the standard bland setup of most tax offices.
It’s in a grand old two-story Victorian house with original flooring, wood trim, door handles and marble fireplace. Built in 1904 by the Maylor family, Jones remodeled the space but retained its charm.
Front door greeter is staff member Lilly, a 2-year-old golden retriever.
Jones knows that visiting her office is not exactly fun.
“It shocks me people don’t like coming here for their taxes,” she jokes. “So Lilly seems to be therapy for them. I think she helps people through that process of stress and anxiety.”
Her firm offers many other services besides tax preparation, including retirement planning, payroll services, business consultation and helping people through IRS audits.
It’s won Best of Whidbey Awards four times.
Jones launched her firm while juggling two teenagers as her husband continued his 25-year Navy aviation career. (She’s now a grandmother to four.)
Celebrating 30 years in the business, Jones thanked her clients with many events that may carry over into 2017.
In early December, she invited all her clients to dinner at the Elks Club where she rented the space while still decorated for the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Island County Festival of Trees fundraiser.
Jones helped launched the county chapter of Big Brothers & Big Sisters almost 20 years ago.
She’s also a 35-year member of Soroptomists of Oak Harbor, a club that helps women. She served on the Oak Harbor School Board during the decade it needed to convince the public to pass bonds to remodel leaking, old buildings, install cafeterias and serve hot lunches to low-income students. The bonds passed.
“When Kathy spoke, you listened,” said John Dyer, who served on the Oak Harbor School Board with Jones in the late 1990s to 2008. “She’s earned respect because of her tireless efforts.”
He added: “And I know there’s no self-serving motive to her.”
Says Jones in her typically modest fashion: “You do what you can. It’s just second nature to me to raise my hand and say, ‘I can do that.’”
Case in point: Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns recently asked Jones to help formulate the new Oak Harbor Main Street Association.
“She agreed to serve as a director, adding to her already busy schedule,” he said. “She is a very special member of our community.”
Jones, the youngest of five, describes her upbringing in Jersey City, N.J, as “a typical Irish Catholic family where service to your church, your community, and your family was modeled and expected.”
Ask her if she’s going to retire anytime soon, this is the response you’ll get: “Do you know someone who wants to buy an accounting firm?”
Besides, what would she do with all that “down” time?
“I was home sick for two weeks once, and I had vacuumed, done the laundry, cleaned the house and looked up and it was only 9 a.m,” she says, laughing. “Some of us aren’t built to sit still.”