For Angelo State University alumna Denise Lunsford Stewart, becoming a woman in management for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts was more about opportunities than obstacles.
After graduating from ASU in 1987 with a degree in accounting, the Kermit native was hired as a sales tax auditor for the Texas Comptroller, the elected official who is chief steward of the state government’s finances and in charge of collecting taxes and estimating the state government’s revenues for the budget process.
“As auditors, we go out to taxpayer locations, businesses big and small, and audit, for example, for sales tax compliance, ensuring the right amount of state tax was collected on sales and remitted,” Stewart said. “It hasn’t always been easy. When I was going into some of the mom-and-pop oil-related companies, there was still the attitude of it being a man’s world.”
“I just kept at it, and in 2007, I was named regional manager for the Odessa area,” she added. “In July 2010, I was promoted to assistant manager of the state comptroller’s Audit Division, the first woman in that role, and in August 2013, I was named the first woman director of the Audit Division.”
As director, Stewart manages 23 field offices with more than 700 employees.
“My employees are like family to me,” she said. “I just want to make it better for the employees, as well as for the taxpayers. And it’s challenging to work toward more consistency and efficiency.”
“With our taxpayers, customer service is important,” she added. “You have to take care of your customers. We do a lot of educational things with the companies we audit. We want to make sure they get the education about what is taxable and what is not and how they can take care of their customers.”
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar values Stewart’s relationships with her employees and with the taxpayers.
“We rely on Denise’s judgment and dedication daily, as she directs one of our most important functions—ensuring that Texans pay their fair share of state taxes and not a penny more,” Hegar said. “As an auditor and a manager, she’s proven that she can work with staff members and taxpayers alike honestly and fairly. She’s a trusted asset to our agency and all of state government.”
“ASU provided the education that I needed to pursue a career in accounting. It also taught me to grow up and become independent.”
Working for the state government, however, wasn’t on Stewart’s radar when she arrived at Angelo State.
“My goal growing up in the Kermit area was to get a job with one of the oil companies,” Stewart said. “It was ASU’s Career Development Office that allowed me to interview with the State.”
“Graduating high school in 1983, it seemed like there were more women going to college, and business was the big thing to go into,” she added. “I had taken accounting classes in high school and I continued with accounting at ASU.”
With other college choices available to her, Stewart chose Angelo State because it was close enough to her West Texas hometown to visit on weekends and not so large “that you got lost in the crowd as just a number.”
“ASU provided the education that I needed to pursue a career in accounting,” Stewart said. “It also taught me to grow up and become independent.”
“It’s a very competitive world, especially in the big accounting firms,” she added. “You have to be determined and stick to your goals and keep working at it.”
Stewart’s job also introduced her to her husband, Bob Stewart, who she met while auditing his family’s Andrews-based oil-related business. That’s a huge bonus to the job she loves.
“It’s been a great career,” she said. “I took the steps and moved up. I’m flattered that they had enough confidence in me to put me in the place I’m at. It just makes you more dedicated, especially when you have good support from the people below you and from the people higher up.”