Meet the PKM “Audit Mom”: Susan Hellem
Over her 26 years with PKM, Susan Hellem has been known for many things. She’s often referred to as “Audit Mom” or even the “Backbone” of the audit department. Susan has been with the firm since 1992 and has been an integral part of shaping the firm’s history. She can remember the days when the firm was “Evans Porter Bryan” and has seen many faces come and go throughout the years. Susan lives in Alpharetta with her husband Jim, of 38 years. She has three siblings, including a brother who is her twin. She has two daughters, the youngest of whom lives in Australia and one granddaughter, Gaby. Who, if you have spent any length of time talking to Susan, you’ve likely heard a lot about.
Throughout college at the University of Missouri, both Susan and Jim held minimum wage jobs to get by – Susan working in an accounting department of a Farmers co-op calculating dividends, as an employee at a dress shop and a front desk clerk at a Hilton Hotel – but they both wanted more. Susan and Jim relocated from Columbia to Tampa within a week of being married. They moved with as little clue as to where they were going to live as they had money in the bank, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams. They wanted to break the mold, start their own adventure and experience a warmer climate – so, with nothing more than a U-Haul in tow, off to Tampa they went!
Once they arrived in Tampa, they opened an apartment guide and saw an “all-utilities-paid” apartment for rent, which seemed too good to be true. They arrived at the apartment complex only to find out there was a six month waiting period to lease any of the units. When asked if they realized that the apartments were unfurnished, they replied that they had furniture in a U-haul chained to a tree in a church parking lot. The leasing agent then asked where they were living, and Susan, being the comedian she is, said “nowhere.” The receptionist then asked, “well, where do you work?” Susan, seeing some hope in this, replied, “we don’t really have jobs yet, but we would like to.” The rental agent was entertained by Susan and luckily decided to give them a break along with a choice of two vacant apartments, sidestepping the six month waiting period.
Susan worked a minimum wage job until she found a position as a paraprofessional in a learning disabilities classroom, hoping to put her elementary education degree to use – but no permanent teaching job materialized. Jim worked for Coca-Cola for a while until he found a permanent position with Chloride – where he has now worked for over 30 years (through all of the buy-outs and name changes). When the paraprofessional position ended, and no permanent teaching position was available, Susan got a job at Price Waterhouse – the merger with Coopers had not yet happened. Soon after, Jim’s job moved them and their young family to Kansas City and then ultimately to Atlanta, where she was able to transfer to the Price Waterhouse offices. While working with the Big-Four was a great learning experience, Susan said she did not enjoy the company culture. She worked with Price Waterhouse for 11 years before seeing an opportunity and applying for a position with Evans Porter Bryan – which later became PKM.
What some of you may not know is Susan actually began her career in the tax department before Tim Keadle took her under his wing in Audit. As Susan would attest, working with Tim truly changed her life. She had graduated with a degree in Education from the University of Missouri but was able to develop skills she did not even know she possessed. She became not only Tim’s right hand woman, but also acted as an audit associate when needed. When asked about her career, Susan only had one thing to say, “I truly owe my entire career at PKM to Tim Keadle. He spent so much time advising, guiding and challenging me that I honestly don’t know where I would be today without him.” Since Tim’s transition from his former role, Susan has been fortunate to have been able to work closely with David and Greg as they have led the audit department. She adds, “there have been so many people in the firm that have helped to mold and expand my experiences, it would be impossible to name and thank them all.”
As time has gone by, Susan often finds herself nostalgic for the old audit days with Tim but is grateful for every opportunity she has had, and every person she has met along her journey with the firm. As many faces as she has seen come and go over her 26 years, it’s hard for her to believe that hers will be next. Susan plans to formally retire from PKM on June 30, 2018 and says she will miss “Every. Single. Person.”
After retirement, Susan is hoping to travel more domestically and internationally. She plans to visit Australia quite often to see her youngest daughter, hopes to visit Europe again with Jim and spend quality time with her close family and friends. Susan recently sold her house and, true to form, she and Jim are not yet sure where they will end up. Needless to say, that did not stop them 38 years ago, and will not stop them now. The one thing she does know for certain is that she’ll “likely be spending a lot more time on a beach!” We are honored to have had Susan as part of the PKM family for the last 26 years and have nothing but well wishes for her for a happy retirement! While we will miss her around the office, we know she’ll be back from time to time and will never be more than a phone call away. Thank you, Susan!