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EY Taps Longtime OC Native as Leader

Mary Garrett’s family has a long history in Orange County, dating back to the late 1800s when her family began a farming business by planting grapes, then avocados and yes, oranges.  

“We have a very strong connection to Orange County,” said Garrett, adding that both of her parents are OC natives.  

Garrett, who was born in Newport Beach and raised in Irvine where she graduated from Woodbridge High School, left for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville on a volleyball scholarship. When that four-year stint was over, she rushed back to Orange County because she missed her family and Irvine.

It looks like she’ll be staying much longer as she was recently appointed the Orange County office managing partner for accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP (EY US), effective Jan. 1. Garrett succeeds Kim Letch, who served as the office managing partner of Orange County for five years and has taken on a new role as the EY US-West Private Equity Market Segment Leader.

 

As the Orange County office managing partner, Garrett is responsible for leading more than 550 professionals in OC while continuing to drive growth and advancing the firm’s culture.  

Ernst & Young, with its local base at the Lakeshore office complex in Irvine near John Wayne Airport, is OC’s second-largest accounting firm by employee count.

The area’s largest accountancy, Deloitte, got its own new local head last year, Marshall Solomon.

“What I love about Orange County is how much I’ve seen it grow and change over the years,” Garrett told the Business Journal. “There’s an amazing entrepreneurial spirt in Orange County.”

EY Career

Garrett earned a degree in accounting because she was excited about business and knew she would get opportunities to explore a wide variety of fields like technology, taxes and healthcare.

Garrett’s first job out of college was at EY, meaning she’s spent her entire 22-year career at the firm.

“I really love my experience at EY,” she said. “They value respect and working as a team. I’ve made strong connections to my clients. I feel like I had no limit to my opportunity.”

She noted that as the mother of a 13 year old, EY provided flexibility in the workplace, even before the pandemic.  

The pandemic has led to a hybrid style of work where employees can go into the Irvine office if they choose, she said. The company said 300,000 of its total workforce worked remotely during the pandemic.

“It’s a challenging time to figure out what to do with respect to work,” Garrett said. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to evolve.” 

ESG Work

Garrett works with high-growth public, private, private equity portfolio and emerging companies on a variety of transactions, including IPOs, mergers and acquisitions, and international expansion.

She’s also an audit partner in health and wellness and life sciences industries.

In her spare time, Garrett has served on the board of directors for the Orange County Chapter of Junior Achievement for more than 15 years.

The big issues that she sees nowadays are what executives are doing around the area of environment, social and governance, or ESG.

“Investors  want to understand what companies are doing with ESG,” Garrett said. “We want to help make sure they’re prepared.”

Cyber risk is also “top of mind” of many clients as well, she said.

“Our philosophy to build a better working world, using innovation to bring value to our clients.” 

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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