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October 21, 2018

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Clark County official named CFO of the Year

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Wade Vandervort

Clark County Nevada Chief Financial Officer Jessica Colvin, center, poses for a photo with her team after winning the CFO of the Year Award at Silverton Casino, Wednesday, June 13, 2018.

Clark County official Jessica Colvin took home the top prize at the second annual CFO of the Year Awards.

Hosted by the Las Vegas Chapter of Financial Executives International, the CFO of the Year Awards celebrates executives who have helped their companies reach new pinnacles of success and whose leadership stands out as exemplary. The event, sponsored by FCI and Design and Umpqua Bank, was held at the Silverton.

Colvin, the county's CFO and winner of CFO of the Year, developed her love of numbers in school.

“Through college, I worked as a bookkeeper and tax preparer, so the accounting field was a natural fit,” said the Las Vegas native, who earned a B.S. in accounting from UNR and is also a licensed CPA.

Colvin worked primarily in public accounting through 2006, then served as the controller for a nonprofit, and joined Clark County as the comptroller in 2011, assuming her current post as chief financial officer in December. Colvin is responsible for the $6.8 billion budget, the management of the Clark County debt portfolio and debt issuances, the financing of the county capital program, and the financial reporting of all county transactions. She also oversees the financing of county health-benefits programs and retiree health-benefits programs and provides leadership to key operations in myriad other departments. She is also a member of the Clark County labor-negotiating team.

Among her recent accomplishments, “With the help of the county team and prudent direction of the board, we have been able to design a quality self-funded health plan and at the same time stabilize the cost of health premiums,” she said. “We also successfully financed the public portion of an NFL stadium while maintaining adequate reserves and safeguards to protect the county and taxpayers, and have implemented funding mechanisms to fund long-term post-employment benefit obligations, which helps provide financial stability for the county taxpayer and employees.”

Looking ahead, Colvin — who supports numerous organizations, including those related to multiple sclerosis — said Clark County faces many challenges but will prevail through innovation, sound planning and strong leadership.

Other nominees for the honor included Eric Hession and Paul Soth. Category winners are Chelle Adams, Kimo Akiona, Kirk Hartle and Christine Tonn.

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CFO of the Year Finalist

Eric Hession

Executive Vice President and CFO | Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Growing up in Pittsford, Vermont, “My father and I would watch the ‘Nightly Business Report’ and discuss the stock market and economy, creating fake portfolios and analyzing what factors drove financial performance within a company,” said Eric Hession, who gravitated toward math and statistics while earning his B.S. in operations research and industrial engineering from Cornell University, which led to a career in finance.

Eric Hession

Eric Hession

He spent five years with Merck & Co. prior to moving to Southern Nevada and joining Cae­sars Entertainment in December 2002, work­ing in various capacities in property operations and corporate finance. Most recently, Hession served as senior vice president of finance and treasurer prior to assuming his current post as executive vice president and CFO in June 2015, with his primary charge to ensure that opera­tions remained robust as Caesars’ largest sub­sidiary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The three-year process was one of the most complex chapter 11 bankruptcies in U.S. history. It resulted in a much more simplified capital structure and one that poised the company for growth, Hession said.

“Since the company emerged from bankruptcy, I’ve focused my time on our 2018 cornerstone initiatives: invigorate hospitality and loyalty marketing programs, invest in core gaming business, institute a continuous improvement-focused operating model, and drive expansion of our distribution network,” said Hession, who serves on the local board of the American Red Cross, with Caesars Entertainment now hosting the organization’s Heroes Breakfast.

With the responsibility of spending $800 million in capital, Hession is also leading conversations and strategy around upcoming acquisitions and international licensing opportunities.

•••

CFO of the Year Finalist

Paul Soth

CFO | Companion Animal Practices

After a career in Minor League Baseball with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels, Paul Soth earned a B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in accounting from California State University, San Marcos, and eventually also earned a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.

Paul Soth

Paul Soth

Upon graduation, he worked in public accounting with KPMG and Arthur Anderson then with Mandalay Resort Group and Spectrum Group International prior to joining Companion Animal Practices North America in March 2015 as CFO.

“I am responsible for running the corporate office here in Las Vegas,” said Soth, who is originally from Orange County and moved to Southern Nevada in 1998. “I have grown the corporate office from eight people to 62 employees, and we are now responsible for operating 76 practices across the U.S. When hired, we were a top-line company of approximately $91 million, and now we are a top-line company of $275 million.”

Under Soth’s financial leadership, Companion Animal Practices has also improved operating margins from 17 percent to 22 percent, which has resulted in a current enterprise value in excess of $430 million.

“We are currently looking to acquire more veterinary practices while striving to improve top-line organic growth and operating margins,” said Soth, who is active with animal-related organizations. “We support the Community Cat Coalition of Clark County, and also support and participate in many Veterinary Centers of America charities, such as a pet-food pantry that served 1.5 million meals to pets in need in 2016.”

•••

CFO of the Year — Gaming | Hospitality

Chelle Adams

CFO | The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Chelle Adams’ foray into the financial arena was largely influenced by her father, who attended night school to obtain an accounting degree after retiring from the Air Force.

Chelle Adams

Chelle Adams

“I remember ‘helping’ him with his homework by punching numbers in his big calculator, and he found a way to make it fun and keep me interested,” said Adams, who spent much of her childhood in Oklahoma City prior to moving to Missouri, where she earned a B.S. in accounting from Truman State University and worked at both Deloitte and RubinBrown in St. Louis, relocating to Southern Nevada in August 2012 to join The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as chief internal auditor.

She was named vice president of finance and corporate controller at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in May 2014, and assumed her current post as CFO in April 2015.

Adams and her team recently created a group that focuses on improving processes. Another project improved the payment and billing systems and improved vendor communication..

“In 2018, we look forward to the completion of a handful of major investments and refreshes,” said Adams, who serves on the executive committee for SafeNest, and also supports The Mob Museum and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. “In the past three years, every inch of the resort has been reimagined, and this year we will complete the remodel of more than 2,500 guest rooms and welcome two new culinary concepts.”

•••

CFO of the Year — Manufacturing | Technology

Kimo Akiona

CFO | AGS

A native of Oahu, Hawaii, Kimo Akiona got into accounting “because it really is the language of business, and I have a strong affinity for numbers — they’re systematic and they don’t waver,” said the CFO of AGS. “Finance offered mobility, opportunity and variety, and was a good baseline to get into multiple areas of business.”

Kimo Akiona

Kimo Akiona

Akiona attended the University of Hawaii, moving to Southern Nevada in 1996 and graduating from UNLV with a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

His primary responsibilities at AGS include all financial-related activities. He also coordinates with international and domestic subsidiaries, maintains strong relationships with auditors, and spearheads special projects for AGS, which had 2017 revenue of approximately $212 million.

During his tenure, top-line revenue has grown more than 194 percent; adjusted EBITDA has increased more than 167 percent; and operating cash flow has increased by more than 253 percent. He also oversaw four major acquisitions totaling more than $450 million.

Most recently, in January 2018, he oversaw an IPO with 10.25 million shares offered at $16 per share, which resulted in net proceeds of $149.1 million. The stock price is up more than 30 percent since the listing.

With a personal philanthropic focus on youth, women’s causes, music and the arts, “I really enjoy helping grassroots organizations like Notes with a Purpose, Raise the Arts, Elevate LV and Cupcake Girls,” said Akiona, who is also the owner of downtown coffee shop PublicUs.

•••

CFO of the Year — Construction | Real Estate

Kirk Hartle

CFO | Ahern Rentals

When he enrolled at UNLV, Henderson native Kirk Hartle planned to pursue a career as an architect.

“But after one semester of advanced calculus and engineering, I decided to try accounting, because I was always good at math, and my stepdad was a CPA and it seemed like a good fit,” said Hartle.

Kirk Hartle

Kirk Hartle

Upon graduation, Hartle, who is also a CPA, worked as an auditor at Deloitte and in senior management with KPMG. He also held senior finance positions at Ribeiro Cos. and Boreta Enterprises prior to joining Ahern Rentals in February 2004 as director of finance. He has held the post of CFO and treasurer for 10 years.

Responsible for finance and accounting, Hartle is also heavily involved in the planning and development for Ahern’s affiliated companies, of which there are nearly one dozen.

In addition to guiding Ahern through a contentious but successful reorganization in Chapter 11 from December 2011 through June 2013, Hartle led financing transactions in excess of $2 billion over the past several years which, based on provisions negotiated in those transactions, has provided the flexibility to grow the business and that of its affiliates.

“The equipment rental business is very strong now, and the demand for our equipment for construction projects all over the world is expected to remain high,” said Hartle, who is active with UNLV. “The complexities of operating in foreign jurisdictions is an ongoing challenge, but we have been fortunate to retain some very good talent to manage that challenge.”

•••

CFO of the Year — Services | Other

Christine Tonn

CFO | Cure 4 The Kids Foundation

A longtime mathematics aficionado, San Bernardino, Calif., native Christine Tonn planned her career path around numbers. Getting a taste of the profession at her mother’s employer doing clerical work and inventory counts at age 11, she also knew she wanted to work in an office environment — accounting seemed like a great fit.

To that end, Tonn earned an associate of science with a concentration in accounting from Crafton Hills College and a bachelor’s of business administration in accounting from Kent State University, and is preparing to begin the Executive MBA program at UNLV.

A licensed CPA, Tonn began consulting with Alliance for Childhood Diseases (doing business as the Cure 4 The Kids Foundation) in 2008, and became the organization’s CFO in April 2012, responsible for leadership and direction of the accounting and billing as well as lease negotiations, space planning and communicating with legal counsel for the nonprofit, whose mission is to advance cures and means of prevention for catastrophic pediatric diseases.

Last year, Tonn assisted in designing a strategic growth plan for Woman’s Resource Medical Center of Southern Nevada, with the goal of realizing a 30 percent increase in services and outreach by 2020.

“In 2017, I also completed an accounting software change from QuickBooks Enterprise to Microsoft Dynamics GP, and earlier this year I completed another software implementation for enhanced financial reporting and analysis,” said Tonn, who also handled lease negotiations for the organization’s new office space and has served as treasurer of Women’s Resource for eight years.