Our Team

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 and met her husband Zac, who is originally from Long Island. They have been married since 2008 and have two sons, Hudson and Archer. In her free time, Lea serves in the Junior League of Sarasota. She is a past Treasurer and past Chair of the Simply Sarasota Cookbook Committee. She most recently led 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

Christine Ashley

Office Manager

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, 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

Sara Nielsen, CLU, ChFc

Accounting Manager

Sara Nielsen joined the Sterling Team in 2021. Sara has a diverse background in Accounting, Finance, Banking and Wealth Management.  She holds a BS in Accounting and an AS in Finance from Pathways Financial. She is a Chartered Financial Consultant, as well as a Chartered Life Underwriter. 

After many successful years in banking and wealth management, Sara made the transition to Public Accounting. She quickly found a passion for helping small to mid-sized businesses grow and thrive. 

When Sara’s not making sure your QuickBooks file is squeaky clean, she enjoys spending time outdoors on her boat in Charlotte Harbor, paddle boarding and shark fishing.

James Ostrowski, CPA

Accounting Manager
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.

Lance Woodall, CPA

Tax Manager

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, EA

Senior Staff Accountant, 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.

Amber Livingston

Staff Accountant
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.

Tegan Shaver, CPA

Senior Staff Accountant
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Tegan graduated from the University of NC at Charlotte in 2013, with a BSB in Accounting and Finance. She then continued on to complete her Master of Accountancy at Western Carolina University, graduating in 2016. During that time, she worked as a Staff Accountant at a local public accounting firm in Asheville, NC. After earning her CPA license in 2020, she joined the Sterling team as a remote Senior Staff Accountant.

Tegan’s focus is on preparing tax returns for businesses and individuals. She enjoys working through the various challenges that businesses come across, to find the best outcomes for clients, as well as helping clients gain a deeper understanding of their tax position.

In her free time, you can find Tegan wandering her garden, enjoying the outdoors/hiking with her dog- Sara, or traveling to Bermuda where she has dual citizenship and family.

Jami Olson, CPA

Staff Accountant
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Jami graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009 with a BSB in Accounting. She continued her education and graduated in 2010 with a Masters in Professional Accountancy degree, while working as an accountant at a small technology firm.

Jami began her public accounting career at Deloitte & Touche, LLP in the audit department in August 2010, and earned her CPA license in December 2010. After Deloitte, Jami moved to the private sector, where she has found her niche in bookkeeping, QuickBooks, and financial statement preparation

After living in Nebraska for 10 years, Jami now resides in Iowa. Jami spends most of her free time taking her Aunt duties seriously by spoiling her niece and nephews, as well as her dog, Oliver Bear. She also enjoys cooking, reading and singing. 

Emily Najmy, MSA

Senior Staff Accountant
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.

Call (941) 777-4700 to learn how Sterling Tax & Accounting can add value to your business!