Q & A with NANA Employees

A Conversation with Daurell Bell, Senior Director of Tax

This is part of a series of interviews to learn more about our diverse employees throughout the NANA family.

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As the senior director of tax, Daurell Bell manages all areas of tax for NANA and its companies, including corporate, partnership, international, tax planning and tax minimization.

 

Where did you grow up?

On a dairy farm in a very rural area of Washington state. The closest town was Quincy which was tiny. There’s lots of open land and the Grand Coulee Dam is nearby. Now Quincy has these huge sprawling data warehouses that Microsoft and Google built.

I was one of eight kids. We lived in a 1,400-square-foot farmhouse with one bathroom which was dominated by the girls. We didn’t know we were poor until we were teenagers. When money was scarce, we ate steak. There’d be one less cow to feed.

Did you work on the farm?       

I fed the cows and cattle and once the baby calves were weened, I fed them too. I drove a tractor and plowed and planted and cut and bailed and manually stacked hay. The bales each weigh about 70 pounds. My dad paid me in calves, which I raised to sell.

Tell us about your name, Daurell. Is it a family name?

I had an Uncle Darryl. My dad wanted to name me after him, but two Darryls would be too confusing at family gatherings. I come from a big family, lots of uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews. So they spelled my name Daurell to differentiate us.

How do you pronounce it?

It rhymes with Carl, but only if I know someone well, or if they need to know, do I correct them.

You never corrected me. [laughing] I googled it. It’s unique. From 1880 to 2016, less than five people per year have been born with the first name Daurell, according to a naming website.

Where did you go to school?

I got my undergraduate degree in accounting from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After my first year of college, I was called on a two-year mission in Chicago.

Chicago? Do you get to choose where you go?

No, but Chicago was very foreign to me. When you grow up on a little farm, it could have been Africa. I never got on a plane until I was in high school, which was a scary adventure. To me, Anchorage would have been big.

After finishing my mission and college, I got my master’s in accounting from Utah State University (in Logan).

There’s good skiing around there.

I saved up my money and went to Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Sundance.

What brought you to Alaska?

I worked in the telecom industry for 30 years. I came up to interview with GCI. Then I learned about NANA.

Telecom?

I worked for a company that helped build the first cellular system in the U.S., back when mobile phones were the size of bricks and cars had those curly antennas sprouting from the rear windows.

The phones looked like shoes, like in “Get Smart.”

Back then, taxes used to be collected in every state you used it, all at different rates. My claim to fame is that I wrote parts of a congressional bill that states your wireless phone is taxable only in the place of primary use. The bill, named the Mobile Sourcing Act, was signed by Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Well done. What do you do at NANA?

I’m the senior director of tax within the finance department. We do tax planning, strategy, tax minimization, financial management, filing and compliance. 

What made you specialize in tax? What do you like about it?

Most people would say no thanks, but I like the complexity of taxes, the challenge. I like when I can save us lots of money as we generate tax benefits and credits.

We keep it lean. Our tax department is Larry Snider and me. We get help from NonHee So, a senior manager of tax compliance at Akima.

What do you like best about working for NANA?

When I found out who the shareholders are, and what NANA’s success would mean to them, that spoke volumes to me. The job had more meaning.

Who has inspired you?

My dad and mom. All I knew of was loved, though it was not expressed openly. They were painfully honest, consistently fair and showed respect for everyone. They would leave an extra dollar rather than take advantage. They set a good example and totally lived by the values that are NANA’s core.

Jim Judson was also a big inspiration. Jim was a partner in a big law firm in Seattle (Davis Wright Tremaine). He was gentlemanly. He could ask difficult questions without offending people and still manage to put them in their place when it was called for. He returned every phone call, answered every email, and was generous with his time. Although he was worth millions, he drove a tiny, old pick-up truck. He was a small-town kid who made it big and he helped me believe in myself.

What important lessons have you learned?

Stay humble.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I’ve climbed Mount Hood (the highest mountain in Oregon) and Mount Rainier (the highest mountain in Washington) twice. I climbed Rainier with a group of Boy Scouts on the first ascent.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I still love to ski. That’s my top sport. Next is golf, then water-skiing.

I’m a chapter representative (for Alaska) of the Tax Executives Institute. I meet regularly with other Native corporation tax directors. I also serve on the board of the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest, as the treasurer.

They’re lucky to have you to do their taxes.

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Daurell Bell was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.