20 Under 40 recipient Erin E. Hunter talks leadership in the North Country.

 

If you had never met her, you might just assume Erin E. Hunter is a “numbers person.” The Watertown woman earned both a bachelor’s in accounting and a Master of Business Administration in accounting from SUNY Oswego.

She is a certified public accountant who was employed for nine years at New York Air Brake. Just two months ago, she left her position as tax manager to take the job of finance director at the nonprofit North Country Family Health Center.

But Mrs. Hunter, 34, will be the first person to say her line of work is not all about the numbers. The “biggest myth is that there’s no place for emotion in business,” she said. “While rational, financially sound decisions are necessary, I feel the best decisions are made when there is a component of

empathy and understanding of the impact of those decisions,” Mrs. Hunter said. “Personal connections with colleagues, other businesses and patients can only help to build stronger relationships, which are critical to succeed in business today.”

After working through a financial crisis last year, the former North Country Children’s Clinic streamlined its operations and redefined management responsibilities to establish itself as the North Country Family Health Center. The center is a federally-qualified health care services provider to people of all ages and income levels.

“I’ve only been at the North Country Family Health Center for two months, so every day is exciting and challenging,” said Mrs. Hunter. “Our organization has such an honorable mission to improve the health and wellness of individuals in our community by providing high quality, affordable, patient-centered and integrated health services.”

Now the center is working with Samaritan Health Systems on a proposal to transfer ownership of the hospital’s six community health clinics throughout Jefferson County. Samaritan had helped to sustain the clinic’s operation during its financial recovery.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this team and can’t wait to help the organization continue its success,” Mrs. Hunter said.

The career change from the for-profit to the nonprofit world of accounting was a step in the right direction for herself and her family, Mrs. Hunter said. She is married to Nathan P. Hunter, CFO at the Northern Credit Union, and they have two children, Natalie, 5, and Brandon, 3.

“Unfortunately, time spent with family is what has been sacrificed most throughout my career,” she said. “The accounting profession brings many long hours and tight deadlines, which often makes it hard to juggle everything as a working mother.”

But “my husband is extremely supportive, and both of our families are amazing and always willing to help out when work commitments take precedent,” she said.

Mrs. Hunter also credits her former boss, Paul Morgan, retired president of New York Air Brake, for serving as a mentor in her professional accounting career. But it was her parents, Ken and Gail Fitzpatrick, who gave her the best advice about life and work.

“My parents always said that hard work, determination and perseverance are keys to success in any aspect of your life,” she said. “They emphasized that I might not always have the right answers, and everything might not always go according to plan, but as long as I refuse to give up, things tend to always work themselves out.”

A native of Baldwinsville, Mrs. Hunter met her husband while they were both attending SUNY Oswego. She was also a roommate at SUNY Oswego with Erika F. Flint, the former director of the Watertown Urban Mission who recently joined the staff of the North Country Initiative.

“My husband is originally from the north country and we decided after college that this area would be a great place to start our family and eventually raise our kids,” Mrs. Hunter said. “This area is fantastic for people who are motivated and eager to take advantage of everything the north country has to offer.”

Mrs. Hunter has been involved with the North Country Community Cup, Christmas projects for the Watertown Urban Mission, and is a contributor to the United Way of Northern New York, according to her former colleagues at New York Air Brake who nominated her for the award. She also helped the New Day Children’s Center obtain a grant for playground equipment.

One thing that her colleagues may be surprised to learn about her?

“I’m a big Syracuse University sports fan,” she said. “I’m very excited for the SU Men’s Basketball season to get underway.”

— Norah Machia

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