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Generation Next: CAC’s Monica Arnett enters NYC Marathon

On Nov. 4, Monica Arnett, director of finance and accounting for the California Avocado Commission, will attempt to break the very-respectable four-hour mark in the New York City Marathon. That is the goal she has set for herself in an attempt to best her previous fastest time.

While Arnett wants to reach her goal, she admitted that she is going to run the race like a tourist would with an iPhone in tow looking for the perfect picture. “I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m not going to be afraid to stop and take a photo,” she said of her run through New York City’s five boroughs. “I want to enjoy the experience.”web-Escondido-trail-half-marathon-2018Monica Arnett running a half marathon in Escondido, in the heart of California avocado country.

Arnett has been participating in long distance running semi-seriously for the past decade. “I started after college,” she said. “I danced competitively in college and after that I was looking for something else for exercise. I took to running and I really like it.”

Arnett started small but quickly began logging more miles per week and looked to add an angle to satisfy her competitive streak. “I started running half marathons and four years ago I ran my first full marathon,” she said. “I really like the idea of pushing myself.”

She has been running a marathon per year, though giving birth to her daughter, Parker, two years ago put a crimp into her training routine. Caring for Parker requires juggling exercise schedules with her husband, Taylor, who is a triathlete in his spare time and also needs to train regularly. Arnett said she and her husband trade training for big events so there is always someone to focus a bit more heavily on parental duties. Arnett has run the Big Sur Marathon on the Central Coast of California and has also run the Long Beach Marathon and the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year, registering her best time (4:08).

“I try to run first thing in the morning about four days a week,” she said. “I run six to 16 miles at a time and about 40-45 miles per week.”

Leading up to the NYC event, she will do a 22-mile run a few weeks before in preparation for the big day. Both her husband and daughter will be there to cheer her on and add to the experience as the family is turning the NYC Marathon into a mini family vacation.

Arnett has been working for CAC for six years, starting as finance and accounting manager and then moving to her current position several years ago. She grew up in San Dimas, CA, the daughter of a teacher and figured that might be the path to follow. Attending Azusa Pacific in Southern California, she took an accounting class and was hooked.

“I liked it, took some more classes and ended up majoring in accounting,” she said.

She interned for one of the big accounting firms while in college, took a full-time position after graduation and achieved her CPA (certified public accountant) certificate during her first year on the job. However, being an accountant in that environment was not her cup of tea.

Arnett spent the next few years in different industries, including real estate management and health care, and also worked in Texas for about a year. It was while working in real estate that she met her future husband, who is in the commercial real estate business.

Coming back to California, Arnett answered an online ad and connected with CAC. She admitted to not knowing much about the avocado industry when she took the job. Truth be told, she wasn’t planning to become immersed in the industry.

“This is a very different industry. It is very collaborative and at the commission we are a close-knit group,” she said. “I definitely know much more about avocados than I ever knew about real estate or health care.”

The 34-year-old Arnett added that there is a great deal of passion in the industry, especially the avocado sector. “Everyone is passionate and really believes in the product. I’ve caught the bug 100 percent.”

At the commission she basically operates as its chief financial officer. She is in charge of the administrative staff including the accounting and IT departments. She works very closely with President Tom Bellamore on creating a budget and staying within its confines. That presents a unique set of challenges as the income, from assessments, is earned as the crop is sold and shipped from spring through fall. But the expenses occur on a 12-month basis and ramp up in late winter and early spring when the promotion of the new crop begins before any assessments are paid.

“It is much different than what most companies face,” Arnett said. “You can’t say you are going to have 5 percent growth in the crop and then count on a 5 percent growth in the budget.”

The provisions of the law establishing the California Avocado Commission rely on a percentage of the crop value for the grower assessment. Consequently, high farm gate prices return more per pound than lower prices. Revenues are a moving target as Mother Nature always plays a pivotal role. The 2018 crop is a great example. When CAC was putting together its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, there were thoughts that the crop would top 400 million pounds. Fire and wind in December caused the estimate to drop to 375 million pounds. Heat and other weather issues in July resulted in some predicting that 300 million pounds would not be reached. In September, the 300 million-pound mark was surpassed with expectations that the final figure would be around 320 million pounds.

“We have to remain very flexible,” Arnett said in a very understated way.

To traverse this ever-changing revenue landscape, the commission relies heavily on “reserves” to cover expenses throughout the year. Arnett said CAC operates with a healthy reserve account in a money market fund to manage the financial affairs of the organization as it moves through the years.

CAC is a quasi-government agency requiring it to follow a host of rules and regulations from both the state of California and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “They hold us accountable with some pretty strict guidelines,” she said, but clearly indicated that it is a far better place to work than her first professional encounter providing financial services.

“It is really interesting working here,” she said.