Clifton Gunderson, the 14th largest accounting firm in the U.S., has named Krista McMasters as the firm's first female CEO.

The firm claims that McMasters is the first female to serve as CEO in the nation's top 25 CPA firms in the history of the profession. She succeeds Carl George, who after 16 years as CEO is planning to retire next year. McMasters is transitioning into her new role and will take office on June 1, 2009. On the same date, the firm will move its headquarters to Milwaukee from Peoria, Ill.

"I'm excited about the opportunities and look forward to the challenges ahead," McMasters told WebCPA. "We are in the process of going through a strategic plan from the ground up. I look forward to starting that process and completing that plan when I take over on June 1." One of her plans includes launching an official women's initiative.

McMasters joined the firm as an associate accountant in 1978, was admitted as a partner in 1985, became director of assurance services in 1989 and most recently has served as chief practice officer. McMasters is a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council and the AICPA Council. She also served as a member of the Professional Practice Executive Committee of the Center for Audit Quality and co-chair of the task force for the AICPA's guide on assessing and responding to audit risk in financial statements.

"Clifton Gunderson is the largest accounting firm to appoint a woman to its top leadership position," said Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs, in a statement. "Krista's achievement is an important signal that old barriers are falling."

Clifton Gunderson had a formal succession plan in place that led to McMasters' appointment. She has worked closely with the firm's current CEO and will continue to do so as they transition the role. McMasters said the firm would also continue to operate its Peoria office after it moves its headquarters to Milwaukee. In addition, the firm announced this week that it has acquired UHY's Arlington, Va., federal government practice (see Clifton Gunderson Buys UHY's Arlington Fed Practice). McMasters sees further acquisitions ahead. "We are always looking for expansion," she said. "The UHY expansion is a great one for us and we anticipate more."

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