She is a mom, a wife, a grandma of five, and a certified public accountant at the Johnson, Hickey & Murchison CPA firm in Chattanooga.
“Work has been a big part of my life for 30 years,” Andrews said.
She has worked with many of Chattanooga’s businesses, including nonprofits and small businesses, as well as municipalities. Andrews has focused largely on corporate and individual accounting, auditing and tax services and is a licensed CPA in both Tennessee and Georgia. She is also known for handling her professional relationships with a professional yet personal touch.
“Cleyta is so well loved, she has numerous long-standing business relationships,” said fellow JHM partner Dean Krech. “She prides herself on that. Her personal connection to clients has served as a role model to me. She is also a great adviser to people in our firm in various divisions and in various capacities. She has such a tremendous background.”
“I am going to miss my clients on a day-to-day basis,” Andrews said. “I am a part of my clients, and they feel like I care. My clients e-mail me at home, as well as the office. They call me in the evening and on weekends. They just call when they need me. In fact, most of them know that if they need me in the future, for advice or just to talk, I am only a phone call away.”
She has recently been dealing mostly with compliance work, such as taxes, audits, required state and federal regulations needed by government entities, and other entities who receive federal funds.
She will retire officially on May 31 after 30 years of dedicated service at the one firm.
Andrews got to Cleveland by way of Western North Carolina.
Her father was born in the mountains there.
He was the youngest of 10 children.
He had a hard life, struggling to survive in Appalachia.
A neighbor, an elderly lady, lived down the road from the family. She helped them out a great deal as her father was growing up. Her name was Cleyta.
When dad had a daughter, he named her Cleyta after this mentor that he depended on growing up.
Cleyta, now Cleyta Andrews, was born four years after Pearl Harbor in Asheville, N.C., in December 1945. The family moved to Augusta, Ga., when she was entering second grade. The oldest, Andrews also has a brother and a sister. Her father has now passed on many years ago.
Andrews married young. She was just 18, she said.
“We were two children growing up together,” she said.
Her husband, Warren, graduated from college in 1974.
Next, it was her turn to go to school.
The year was 1977. At this point, she had raised three children, from oldest to youngest — Shannon Andrews, (now Holland); Melissa Andrews; and Brooke Andrews (now Brock) — and was 31 years old. Her youngest was just a year old when mom started school at Roane State Community College.
“I was very good with numbers as far back as I can remember,” she said, “an made very good grades in high school math. I earned bbysitting money while in college by working as a peer tutor in Algebra. This gift for numbers is evident in me and my two siblings. All of our careers have been related to number crunching.”
She’s just not sure where she got her gift for numbers, but two of her daughters do and probably got it from her.
After a few years, she transferred to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville from where she graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting.
With almost a year to go to finish up her schooling, Cleyta Andrews, her husband and her three daughters moved to Cleveland in 1981. Her husband currently works as a certified nursing assistant at Bradley Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center.
“I finished up by driving back and forth to Knoxville until March 1982,” she said. “My youngest child was age 5 when I started here, and now my youngest grandchild is age 7.”
Sixty-six, and proud of it, Cleyta Andrews graduated at the age of 36.
“I went to work the very next month with the Johnson, Hickey & Murchison CPA firm in Chattanooga,” she said. “And I stayed with the same company the whole time ... I loved the people, the company and the work. I appreciated the opportunities they gave me and they appreciated my hard work, efforts and kept giving me more and more responsibilities.”
One of her fondest memories, as well as a major milestone, came in the spring of 1987. Her mentor for the past five years at the CPA firm, one of the founding partners, Harrison Hickey, became ill. She had to start working with his clients herself and taking care of their cases.
“I wasn’t young in years, but I was young in my career path,” she said. So, at first, she would call Hickey to ask him what he wanted her to do. He would tell her: “You just take care of it.”
So, she assumed responsibility and when Hickey passed away after an illness that lasted several months, it was a natural and easy transition for her to take over his case load.
“It was a turning point in my career,” she said. This was also the time when Andrews started developing her own client base. “I just followed the guidance of the Lord ... But I would rather have him back today if I could.”
Her next milestone in her career came in July 1994 when she became a partner in the firm.
“I appreciated the partners recognizing my accomplishments,” she said. “And I appreciated both my bosses and fellow employees as well ... They’re really more friends than co-workers.”
But as for the future, she and her husband plan to travel, which they have done throughout their 47 year marriage, just more often.
“We love to travel,” she said.
And they should have plenty of time to do so because both are retiring about the same time — her in a few days and him the middle of June. One of their first trips they plan on taking is to Yosemite National Park in California with their grandkids. After that, a trip just for the two of them to New York City.
Andrews also is ready to enjoy more time with her five grandkids, as well as being more active with her church — The First Baptist Church of Cleveland — and volunteering with a few nonprofit organizations “close to their hearts.” The couple also is planning on spending more time working with the Shepherd’s Arms Rescue Mission in Chattanooga, including using some of her accounting expertise to help out.
Often working 60 hours a week, especially during tax season, she now hopes to have enough time for all her plans and activities.
“I am still drawing a blank as to the word I used ... to describe how I feel about my upcoming retirement,” Andrews said. She’s a little uneasy, melancholy. “I guess this is the best way to put it: On one hand, I am excited to have the time to do fun things and not be tied to my profession for so much of my time, but, on the other hand, I am somewhat anxious as to how I will adjust to having so much free time ... (Yes), I guess the best way to describe my feelings is ‘anxious’.”