BAXTER - What do you do when life hasn't turned out the way you hoped?
For Sally Halverson, it meant reinventing herself.
As a youngster she was a good student, loved to read, but said high school was difficult. College, beyond vocational training, wasn't even a consideration. She worked as a cook, waitress and bartender. She became a mother. She worked clerical jobs through temp agencies. By her late 30s, she was working 18-hour days in the summer to pay fuel bills from the previous winter.
She felt she'd run up against a wall. She felt her choices were limited.
Sally Halverson, certified public accountant, recently opened her own business - Halverson & Associates - in Baxter. Armed with a wealth of life experience and a desire to change her future, Halverson went to college at age 42. She established a new career and found a perfect spot to create a home near Aitkin.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
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"It was either go forward or drown - it was the sensation I was having at the time," she said. A friend's advice about taking responsibility for your own future stuck with her. "There is only one person responsible for my life," Halverson said of herself. "That was an epiphany."
At 42, Halverson was the first woman in her immediate family to go to college.
"Most of the time I'd walk into the classroom and the freshmen would think I was the instructor," Halverson said. She became a certified public accountant. And last month, she opened her own business.
First job: As a cook at Country Kitchen in Baxter at age 17.
TV character you can identify with? Monk. That's the personality you need to be an accountant so I'm a little bit Monkish. I love the debits and credits and putting things in order and chasing things down.
Brush with fame while living in California: Knew boxer Sugar Ray Leonard - a sweetheart. Was introduced to Clint Eastwood - on a short list of people who retains star power even off screen and life size. Met actor Nathan Lane - naturally funny and very personable and down-to-earth. Shook hands with actor Jon Voight. They didn't talk about his daughter Angelina Jolie.
Best advice you've ever received: Take responsibility. Quit blaming everybody else.
Best advice you've ever given: Go to college.
Halverson grew up in the Pequot Lakes/Pine River areas and went to school in Pillager. She studied photo finishing in Staples and later moved to California hoping to earn higher wages and get a job in a commercial lab. She lined up work but found a business closed sign on the building when she arrived.
So she supported herself with clerical work though temp agencies. Halverson said working at an accounting firm opened her eyes to greater possibilities. She worked for a high-end construction group in California. Halverson said everything she did seemed to be moving her toward an accounting career even before she realized it.
So she took the plunge. She moved back to Minnesota to go to Itasca Community College and then Bemidji State University. She took 30-credit course loads per semester at college. After working for a CPA, a construction firm, a corporate office and a manufacturer, she opened her own business - Halverson & Associates - in February on Cypress Drive in Baxter in the office buildings near Super One Foods.
"It's an adventure," Halverson said.
Halverson does tax preparation, bookkeeping, auditing, payroll services and consulting.
Her daughter, a Central Lakes College student, works part time as a receptionist at the new office. Strongly encouraging her own children to broaden their options through higher education is one of Halverson's goals. Both her daughters are in college and she has a 10-year-old son at home.
She fell in love with a piece of property near Aitkin where the family has its home.
"I plan on dying there," she said. "I just love it. It's the first place I've ever moved and felt - sigh - home."
Bunny Dotzler, who owns Bunny's Day Care in Aitkin, met Halverson when they both worked at Spalj Construction in Deerwood. Halverson's son attended Dotzler's day care.
Dotzler said Halverson's attention to detail and her organizational skills were evident as the single mom lined up contractors for her home and planned the landscaping with trees and a pond.
"She loves the outdoors and she's wonderful with flowers," Dotzler said. "She's very nice and very professional in what she does."
After a day at work reconciling columns of numbers, Halverson finds relaxation through the challenge of playing pool. She calls herself a billiards addict and has a pool table at home and plays in pool tournaments at the Oak Lawn Tavern.
"I wish her well," Dotzler said of the new business, noting Halverson is thorough and committed to her work. "I'm sure she'll do just fine."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch. com or 855-5852.
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