Our Team

Lea N. Graf - Founder & President

Lea N. Graf, CPA, CGMA

Founder & President

Lea Graf is a CPA and Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who specializes in small business accounting, tax preparation and strategic planning. She graduated from the University of South Florida and worked in public accounting before starting her own practice in 2013.

As an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Lea is one of a handful of CPAs with a deep knowledge of QuickBooks. Lea is able to quickly assess the accounting needs of businesses, and to propose solutions to meet those needs.

Lea moved to Sarasota from the icy tundra of Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2001. She has two sons, Hudson and Archer. Lea is a member of the Junior League of Sarasota. She is a past Treasurer and past Chair of the Simply Sarasota Cookbook Committee. She is most proud of leading a team of volunteers in creating a new cookbook – Simply Sarasota: From Fresh to Fabulous – which was published in October of 2018.

Lea’s no-nonsense personality, a touch of “Minnesota nice,” and years of experience combine to give you a one-of-a-kind accounting experience!

View Lea’s ProAdvisor Profile and read reviews Click here

Chris Ashley

Christine Ashley

Office Manager
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Chris grew up in Pennsylvania but has lived in several states, settling in Nashville, TN for most of her adult years. She brings 24 years of administrative support experience in various industries to this position.

Chris moved to Englewood, Florida in 2018 with her husband, Jake, and their pets (2 dogs and an elderly cat) to be closer to his family. She’s a big animal lover and founded a non-profit animal rescue in Nashville.

In her free time, Chris enjoys being active. She likes to run, paddleboard or kayak every chance she gets. Florida is definitely a great place to foster her love of the outdoors and she enjoys spending time on the beautiful beaches along Florida’s west coast.

Jeremy Deme - Sr. New Client Advocate

Jeremy Deme, MBA

Sr. New Client Advocate
Business Tax and BPO Strategist

Jeremy joined our team in 2020, bringing with him both a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, and a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). Early on, Jeremy embraced the mantra of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) to allow businesses to focus on their core strengths, and regardless of size, be able to compete on a level playing field based on their abilities.

Throughout his career, Jeremy has helped countless organizations understand the ins and outs of business process outsourcing, and actively works as a partner to help businesses transition to their new platform.

Jeremy originally hails from the Northeast, but has called the Sunshine State home since 2016. Of all the distinctions Jeremy holds, his proudest is that of father and husband to his beautiful daughter and wife. He loves running around at the beach and theme parks with his family — and in his quiet time can be found reading a good book or doing yoga.

Sarasota Quickbooks Online

Lance Woodall, CPA

Tax Manager
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Lance joined the Sterling Team in 2021. Lance graduated from the University of Montana with a B.S. in Business Administration Accounting emphasis.  He has worked in the public accounting sector for over thirty years.

Lance specializes in tax planning and compliance for small and midsized business. He is excited to help business owners navigate the tax code to arrive at the best possible answer for their tax problems.

Lance resides in Post Falls, Idaho with his chocolate lab.  When he is not busy tax planning for clients, Lance can be found in the fields and mountains with his dog chasing upland game, shooting sporting clays and swinging flies for Steelhead and Salmon in the rivers of his area.

Dawn Owens - Accounting Manager

Dawn Owens, EA

Accounting Manager, Onboarding Specialist
Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Dawn joined the Sterling Team in March 2017. Though she holds a degree as a Legal Assistant, life steered her in another direction, and she is happy it did! Dawn has over 10 years of experience in bookkeeping and tax preparation. She is also an Advanced Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor, a distinction that few in the industry hold. Dawn is also an Enrolled Agent (EA), which allows her to better serve clients by representing them before the IRS.

Dawn was born in Kansas, but grew up in Michigan, where her Midwest ideals of loyalty and hard work were instilled. Dawn first moved to the Sarasota area in 2006. She briefly moved back to Michigan from 2013-2015, but quickly came to realize that Florida was where she needed to be.

In her free time, Dawn enjoys reading, watching movies, and visiting the beautiful beaches Sarasota has to offer. While she currently lives in Sarasota, Dawn makes frequent trips back to Michigan to visit her daughter and grandson, along with other family there.

Sarasota Quickbooks Online

James Ostrowski, CPA

Tax Specialist
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Jim Ostrowski is a CPA and Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who joined the Sterling Team in March of 2021. Jim graduated from Grand Valley State University with a BSB in Accounting and Finance. Jim has both public and private accounting experience. Jim’s experience ranges from accounting and tax, to over twenty years’ experience as a Controller and CFO for privately held manufacturers. He specializes in budgeting, forecasting, and key performance indicators, coupled with cost accounting and margin analysis.

Jim resides in Mount Morris, Michigan with his wife Karla spending time with their three young adult children. In Jim’s free time he enjoys golfing, traveling, and long walks any chance they get.

Amber Livingston - Senior Staff Accountant

Amber Livingston

Accounting Specialist
Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Amber spent the majority of her younger years in Sarasota and is a proud Riverview alumni. She graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa with a BA in Business Administration and a BA in Accounting.  Prior to joining Sterling, she spent 14 years managing a chain of independent college bookstores in the Southeast U.S. in a variety of roles.

She and her husband, Ben, moved back to Sarasota to put down roots and be closer to family and friends. In her spare time, Amber enjoys reading, getting lost walking around Myakka State Park, spending time with loved ones, and making candles.

Sarasota Quickbooks Online

Emily Najmy, MSA

Tax Specialist
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Emily was born and raised in Michigan and attended Western Michigan University, completing her Masters of Science in Accountancy in 2014. She moved to Sarasota in 2015 to begin an internship at HBK CPAs & Consultants and live near family. In 2016, she was hired as an Associate Accountant and serviced both tax and audit clients. Over the next four years, Emily became involved with local young professional associations and was awarded a Next Gen Recognition from the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance in 2018.

After moving to Jacksonville, Florida in 2020, Emily pursued her passion for teaching as a Tax Instructor at Liberty Tax. She was also employed as a Tax Expert at Intuit, providing support to TurboTax customers. She was excited to join the Sterling team in the summer of 2021 as a Senior Accountant, with a focus on tax and bookkeeping.

Emily resides with her sister and enjoys living on the first coast of Florida. In her free time, you can find her reading, sipping matcha, or dancing to live music. After spending the summer exploring Yosemite, Sequoia, and the Grand Canyon, Emily is determined to visit all of the National Parks in her lifetime.

Sarasota Quickbooks Online

Erik Cecil

Tax Specialist
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Erik joined the Sterling Team in January 2022. Erik graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a B.S. in Economics. He has worked in the accounting sector for nine years.

Erik’s Public Accounting career began in 2009. He specialized in income tax preparation for businesses and individuals.  He took a short hiatus from Public Accounting to work in the private sector as a Manager for several Chick-fil-a restaurants and Lowe’s Foods grocery stores in the coastal North Carolina market. 

Erik decided to return to Public Accounting in 2022, and we are lucky to have him!

Erik resides near Wilmington, North Carolina with his wife Stacy and two dogs Dalton and Kona.  In his free time, Erik enjoys long hikes in the state parks of North Carolina and volunteering at his local church. 

Sarasota Quickbooks Online

Celestina Gonzales

Accounting Specialist
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Cel took their first accounting class while attending Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. At the time, they were pursuing a degree in music education, but after much self reflection, they realized they were not suited for teaching, and after finishing their B.A. in Music Studies in 2019, they started pursuing their Master of Accountancy in 2020. That same year, Cel started working for a local CPA firm as a Tax Preparer. In 2021, Cel completed the Master program with over a year of public accounting experience. 

In 2022, Cel took a short break from accounting for a unique opportunity to work on a short-term project with an independent game development company as a Level Designer. Once the project was completed, Cel was excited to return to accounting, and joined the Sterling Team in July 2022. 

Cel currently resides in South Texas with their two fluffy cats, Katy and Tulip. In their free time, they love playing games, solving puzzles, and spending time with friends. 

Valerie Schranz

Valerie Schranz

Sales & Marketing Assistant
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Valerie joined our team in 2023 and brings with her nearly 30 years of administrative support and a wealth of sales and marketing experience. Throughout her career, she has mixed her sales and administrative skills to bring success to various companies in the software, recruiting, and retail book industries. She has also enjoyed giving her time to volunteer opportunities, including being President of Phi Theta Kappa at Palm Beach State College and Vice President of Mid South Reads in Memphis, Tennessee.

Valerie resides in Sarasota, Florida with her husband Tom where they enjoy cooking and spending time with Tom’s father and sister in law who also live there. She has two daughters, one who is attending UCF in Orlando and the other who is an assistant manager at a hunter jumper farm in Tennessee. In her spare time, Valerie is an avid reader and loves taking her dog Buddy for long walks in the area parks.

Connie Wilson-Kral

Connie Wilson-Kral, CPA

Tax Specialist

Connie grew up in Iowa, along the Mississippi River, where she lives with her husband Andy. She graduated from the University of Iowa and Iowa Wesleyan College, completing a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Accounting degree.

Early in her career she and her family managed a family retail business and she experienced both the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur.
Connie pursued her passion for numbers and business with the opportunity to work for a local Public Accounting Firm, becoming a licensed CPA in 2003. She has been privileged to work with and in a variety of small businesses and not for profit organizations.

Connie was glad to join the Sterling team in 2022. When she is not working she enjoys playing with her grandchildren, gardening, and vacationing on the beaches of Florida.

Lacey Nielsen

Lacey Nielsen

Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Lacey joined the Sterling Team in February 2023. Lacey graduated from the University of South Florida (USF), where she obtained a degree in business management. During her time at USF, she gained a solid foundation in various aspects of business, including accounting and finance.

Following graduation, she spent time working in Retail Banking, where she discovered an affinity for numbers and organization, which led her to pursue a career as a bookkeeper. Lacey finds satisfaction in ensuring that financial records are accurate, up-to-date, and in compliance with regulations.

Lacey & her husband share a a deep love for the water where they spend most of their free time whether it be sailing, powerboating or simply enjoying the tranquility of a beach. Lacey has grown up in Sarasota, FL where she raced sailboats, (even lived on one) which taught her many valuable life lessons about focus, determination, teamwork and the ability to adjust course.