Accountant raises the bar
At age 39, Gardinier already is a partner at Virchow Krause, where she leads the accounting firm’s manufacturing division.
She’s a wife and mom of two teenagers.
And in her spare time, she’s the consummate volunteer, leaving an imprint on the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, American Heart Walk, Janesville Concert Association (now Janesville Presents!), Janesville Performing Arts Center and United Way of North Rock County, among other organizations.
But you won’t learn the depth of her commitment by talking to her. Gardinier can tell you matter-of-factly what she does, but she isn’t good at tooting her own horn.
What she is good at is making a difference wherever she goes.
“She sets the bar,” says Jeff Kersten, leader of Virchow Krause’s Janesville office. “She really gives—and way past the maximum—and sees it through to where the organization is better off for having her.”
Kersten hired Gardinier as soon as she graduated from UW-Whitewater in 1990. Bright and energetic, she quickly emerged as a top performer and made partner in 2001.
She jumped into community service just as quickly, figuring it was an easy way to meet people. When Gardinier helps an organization, she serves on key committees that get things done.
She helped lead fund-raising drives for the YMCA/Boys & Girls Club and the American Red Cross.
As a volunteer treasurer for the Janesville Concert Association, she computerized the accounting system, started a formal budgeting process and produced monthly financial reports for the board.
Since 2002, she’s been the volunteer treasurer for the Janesville Performing Arts Center, saving JPAC from having to hire a full-time financial manager.
“She’s made my life and my job so much easier,” says Laurel Canan, JPAC’s executive director.
She now sits on a United Way committee that’s transforming the way funds are disbursed.
Dave Johnson, who has worked with Gardinier on the United Way board, sees two kinds of volunteers: people who join and people who do.
“Wherever she winds up donating her time, she ends up doing a lot,” says Johnson, general manager at The Janesville Gazette.
Canan also sits on a United Way committee with Gardinier.
“I love working with her,” Canan says. “She’s got a great business head. She knows what needs to be done, especially in nonprofit accounting. There’s nobody better.”
In 2006, Virchow Krause identified three values the firm thought were most important: integrity, passion and stewardship.
In Kersten’s view, Gardinier lives those values.
“People like to follow Lynn,” he says. “They know she’s a quiet leader who leads by example.”
Gardinier clearly likes what she does. She enjoys the variety of tax clients Virchow Krause serves—from individuals to manufacturers worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gardinier says she chose public accounting over private accounting for a reason: She’s a people-person, not just a number cruncher.
Public accounting “has a lot to do with relationships and meeting people and becoming involved in things,” she says.
Anyone can be a volunteer, but don’t volunteer just to build your resume, Gardinier says.
“If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be there.”
Occupation: Partner at Virchow Krause & Co., Janesville
Family: Husband, Ed “Smokey” Gardinier; daughter, Katie, 18; and son, Tyler, 14
Favorite hobby: Before answering this question, Gardinier laughs. “What spare time?” she asks. Her favorite hobby is spending time with family, especially camping in summer. The family has visited South Dakota, Niagara Falls and the Smokey Mountains in the camper. “We like to go to different places every time.”
Favorite book: Murder mysteries by James Patterson
Favorite movie: It’s a tie between “Sound of Music” and “The Notebook,” a love story. “Some people might say I’m a little bit sentimental, a little emotional.”
Her inspiration: Her mother, a former stay-at-home mom who raised three kids single-handedly after her father died. She admires “people who put other people in front of themselves.”