While Jake Netterville rose through the ranks to lead the Baton Rouge accounting firm that bears his name, as well as chair the 400,000 members of a national professional organization, some of his most memorable experiences occurred outside of the office.
Netterville, chairman of the board emeritus of Postlethwaite & Netterville, earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from LSU in 1960. He was managing partner of P&N for more than 20 years, during which time the firm became one of the top 100 leading accounting firms in the country.
“It’s just been a great life,” says Netterville, who will be honored by Business Report and Junior Achievement during the 2019 Business Awards and Hall of Fame gala March 20. “I have looked at those who have preceded me in the Hall of Fame, and I am just amazed that I would be included. It’s brought back very fond memories as I reflect over the years.”
Netterville is a Baton Rouge success story. From his elementary school days at Bernard Terrace, to Baton Rouge High, to LSU, he has always given his time, talent and expertise back to the community that has supported him and his business, says his son, Craig Netterville.
“I’ve been able to watch him become successful while remaining with high integrity, and honesty and morals,” Craig Netterville says. “It’s always been a guiding principle for me because I’ve seen a role model who’s successful by being that way.”
As a high school student, Netterville took a career assessment test that indicated he would make a good CPA. He took the advice, went to LSU and enrolled in accounting courses. After graduation, his first job was with the largest CPA firm in Baton Rouge, a company with 19 employees, and at 23 years old, Netterville was the youngest.
After a short time, he landed at the accounting firm of then-Postlethwaite & Lea. Of the nine employees who worked there, Netterville was still the youngest. “I went from being the last man in a big firm to the last man in a little firm,” he says. “Now, I’m by far the oldest, but I’m still here.”
Netterville rose through the ranks, and in 1977 he became managing partner of the firm. Under his leadership, the firm’s audit and tax department grew from around 85 people to 125. Today, P&N’s consulting department—which didn’t exist in the 1970s—is now larger than audit and tax. “That’s a huge trend in national CPA firms,” Netterville says. “That’s where the profession is going. Clients want more than just tax and auditing. They want consulting.”
Netterville oversaw another significant change when the firm had rapid growth thrust upon it after being chosen to audit claims from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. P&N had to ramp up quickly, hiring 250 people in two months to handle the work and open an office in Houston, which is still operating.
Netterville says his greatest professional accomplishment was serving as chairman of the board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a position he held from 1992 to 1993. The 400,000-member organization represents the CPA profession nationally and serves as an advocate before legislative bodies, public interest groups and other professional organizations.
After his nomination for vice chairman, Netterville says he knew he would automatically move up to chairman. He sought the blessing of his firm’s other partners because of the time commitment the role would require. The experience came with the added bonus of having an apartment in New York City, and he enjoyed spending time there. In 1999, Netterville received the AICPA Gold Medal Award, the highest award given by the institute.
Previously, as an AICPA committee member for many years, Netterville had the experience of speaking at seminars around the country. “I got really well known in a small firm atmosphere,” he says. The position also allowed him to play at hundreds of golf courses, including Augusta National, one of the most famous courses in the world.
GOLF LEGENDS: Jake Netterville has experienced the best the game of golf has to offer, whether it’s playing the 18th at St. Andrews, walking the fairways of Augusta National or visiting with Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus.
Another memorable moment for Netterville occurred in 1983, when he was selected as king of Washington, D.C. Mardi Gras. He was able to visit the Oval Office to meet and exchange gifts with President Ronald Reagan. “It was the thrill of a lifetime,” Netterville says. This year, Netterville had the honor of going back to D.C., escorting his granddaughter, who was selected as a princess on the 2019 Royalty Court. “It brought back very fond memories of when I was king.”
Netterville has kept strong ties to the university where he earned his degree, serving on the board of the Tiger Athletic Foundation, previously as chairman and now as immediate past chairman. He also has been involved with the business school, helping to establish scholarships to encourage more people to choose public accounting as a career.
“The big problem across the country is attracting good people,” Netterville says. “We haven’t had that problem because of LSU graduating a lot of well-trained accountants every year.”
In 2000, Netterville was inducted into the LSU E.J. Ourso College of Business Administration Hall of Distinction, and in 2017 he was inducted into the LSU Alumni Hall of Distinction. He is also a past recipient of the Louisiana CPA Distinguished Service Award, Baton Rouge Volunteer Activist Award, Beta Alpha Psi National Accountant of the Year Award and LSU Beta Alpha Psi Accountant of the Year Award.
His volunteer positions through the years include serving as president of the LSU Tiger Tipoff Club, Louisiana Arts and Science Center, LSU College of Business Administration Alumni Association, and Baton Rouge Area Foundation; as well as chairman of Council for a Better Louisiana, Greater Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce, and EBR Parish Mortgage Finance Authority. Currently, he also serves on the Tiger Athletic Foundation Board of Directors and the Louisiana Flagship Coalition. He has also been a member of the LSU Dean’s Advisory Board since its inception.
Netterville’s involvement in the community doesn’t stop there. He has served on the board of Amedysis Inc. for more than 20 years. He also serves on the board of the Baton Rouge Water Company. “I didn’t start out to do any of that,” Netterville says. But various nonprofit organizations needed a treasurer to serve on their boards and Netterville agreed to help out. Through his work on the board at Amedysis, he had the opportunity two years ago to ring the Nasdaq bell in Times Square. Netterville says it was thrilling to see a picture from that moment displayed on the side of the Nasdaq building in Times Square for everyone to see.
Netterville and his wife, Mary Nell, have been married for 57 years. They have two children and five grandchildren.
“I think he’s given back because he wants Baton Rouge to be a great place to live. He’s been a great ambassador,” Craig Netterville says. “He’s very loyal to Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge High and to LSU for providing him the opportunities to succeed. He equates his experience at Baton Rouge High to putting him in accounting at LSU. LSU provided him the opportunity to succeed through that curriculum.”