September-October 2014 | FABULOUS AT FORTY!

Sara Lavdas, CPA, Edwin A. Rommel III, CPA, Amanda McWilliams, CPA and Jennifer Willing, CPA



From humble beginnings to four decades of success, Twilley, Rommel & Stephens, P.A. is one of the most trusted and respected accounting firms on the Eastern Shore

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

In 1974, two eager and ambitious young men decided to launch an accounting firm… out of a kitchen. Well, the community must have liked what they were cooking up because 40 years later, they are Twilley, Rommel & Stephens, P.A., one of the region’s most trusted and respected accounting firms.

“That story about the kitchen is true,” offered founding partner Edwin Rommel from the conference room of his office in Salisbury. “We were working out of Bob Twilley’s kitchen and dining room for the first couple of months, until we could afford a proper office and staff.”

The “proper office” was 500 square feet on Florida Avenue in Salisbury, and the staff was a single secretary that the two partners had to share. Back then, personal tax returns were $75, and the fledgling company’s first year’s gross income was a whopping $11,000.

“We worked all the time,” Ed said. “Eighty hours a week over seven days was commonplace. It was nonstop, but that’s what we had to do to establish ourselves and the firm.

“What kept us afloat in those early years were Hanna Systems, Inc., McJiltons Restaurant Systems and Hearne Produce, Co.,” Ed continued. “We spent what seemed a lifetime in Johnny & Sammy’s restaurant, drinking lakes’ worth of 
coffee, discussing taxes and providing financial advice.”

Another thing they did to generate business was offer a discount on their $75 tax returns if clients referred business to the firm (in those days, accounting firms were not allowed to advertise). The plan obviously worked because today, Twilley, Rommel & Stephens, P.A. has an office 10 times the size of that first one on Florida Ave. Their client base now numbers in the thousands, and it includes individuals, estates, mom-and-pop shops, midsize businesses and corporations. Their roster of services, meanwhile, goes well beyond tax preparation, encompassing general accounting services, business valuations, estate planning and 1031 exchanges. Their expertise extends equally to medical practices, construction and real estate companies, and professional service firms.

“The secret of our longevity, consistency and success inheres in the team that we have assembled,” Rommel emphasized. “We have enjoyed an industry-leading client-retention rate and year-round new business from referrals because our staff is really that good, that accessible and that trustworthy.”

This A-team includes not only partners Ed Rommel, who is an acclaimed and accredited expert on business valuation, and Bob Stephens, a Certified 1031 Exchange Specialist and an expert tax strategist in estates and trusts, but also Cindy Bounds, a 31-year TR&S veteran. Cindy is an expert at client services and is in charge of the private professional practice division. Manager Jennifer Willing, meanwhile, has 12 successful years at TR&S and specializes in financial-statement preparation and small-business consultation. By comparison, tax manager Sara Lavdas’ five years at TR&S make her the new kid on the block, yet her skill with business and individual taxes, as well as her status as a Certified Valuation Analyst, position her as the firm’s prodigy.

Another hallmark of the TR&S success story is community involvement and service. In addition to the firm’s copious pro bono work on behalf of local nonprofits and the various charities to which the entire staff devotes time, money and resources, Stephens is treasurer of the Wicomico Rotary Club, and Rommel is on the board of directors of Coastal Hospice. Jennifer Willing is currently chairperson of the Salvation Army finance committee, and Cindy Bounds has served as both the accounting chair and survivor reception chair with Relay For Life for the past 10 years. 

Congratulations and happy birthday, TR&S. Thanks for 40 years of faithful service to the community.

Posted On: 9/4/14 2:11 pm
What a fantastic firm. I've run into the lady in navy before and she has always been pleasant.