When it comes to fitness, Judy Kaltenbacher doesn’t just go through the motions. Kaltenbacher, this year’s winner of the Business Journal’s 6035 Lifestyle: Healthiest Executive award, acts as a motivator and mentor — both professionally and personally — to her co-workers.
When not climbing mountains on her bike, Kaltenbacher is tax partner in charge at Stockman Kast Ryan + Co. She spoke with the Business Journal this week about keeping herself and her staff physically and mentally ready for anything that comes their way.
What do you do at SKR?
I am the tax partner in charge. That means I’m in charge of our tax department, which is two-thirds of our practice. I also do the client-service piece too — work with individuals, businesses, corporations, partnerships, trusts, estates — the whole gamut of tax work.
How long have you worked here?
I’ve been with Stockman Kast for 32 years, and that includes my time with Deloitte & Touche for 10 years before they merged with Stockman Kast in 1995.
Are you from Colorado?
I was born in Rhode Island but moved here when I was about 9 months old. My dad was in the military, and he was stationed at Ent Air Force Base, where the Olympic Training Center is now. I graduated from Palmer High School and then I moved to Texas with my parents five days after graduation.
I was tired of school and didn’t want to go to a four-year college, so I got a fashion merchandising degree in Dallas. Then I decided I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life and started at a junior college where my parents lived.
They said I should go back to Colorado Springs. They knew I wasn’t very happy. I came to UCCS and started on my bachelor’s degree but didn’t want to be a bookkeeper for the rest of my life.
I didn’t want to go to school for four more years, but I ended up going back for six. It didn’t work out like I originally planned.
What inspired you to live a healthy lifestyle?
When I moved to Texas, I proceeded to not do anything, and I put on 20 pounds, easily. I was not happy with that, so I started running. I ran for years until my knees started to bother me, and then I picked up biking.
That was the turning point — when I began exercising for health reasons and to be fit. I noticed (and still notice) that if I’m exercising on a regular basis, I have so much more energy, I’m more alert, all those things. … There are days I’m too tired and I don’t feel like it — a lot of my life I don’t feel like going out. But I know, no matter how tired I am, I’m going to feel better afterwards.
Why do you think you were nominated for healthiest executive?
I think it’s weird being nominated for just being who I am. I am very much into health and fitness now, but back in the old days, you just played sports. I went to a parochial school and we played volleyball, basketball, softball. I played soccer from junior high through high school. Sports were a part of my life, but because they were enjoyable.
Did fun stuff become a chore?
Running became work. It was the hardest thing to start to do. But holy cow — the endorphins!
But I get the same benefits now from mountain biking. I do it to build endurance and for the aerobic factor, but mountain biking is a lot more fun than running — it’s the little challenges like making it up rocks, or jumping off rocks.
It’s easier for me to get on my bike and go than making myself run.
How do you get others active at work?
I guess it’s by example. We had a health challenge here during last tax season. It wasn’t my idea, but I participated 100 percent. It was about drinking enough water and doing a certain amount of exercise each day and participants got points. And there were challenge exercises — sit-ups, pushups, planks — something each week. That started in January and went through March.
… I also think it’s cool the firm has gotten a membership at the 365 [Grand] Club [fitness centers]. I can see out my window at the end of the day where staff will go work out. It energizes me when I see them going to workout.
What else do you do to help others stay fit?
I do tax manager coaching, and part of our coaching session is walking around Monument Valley Park while we’re talking. Standing desks are also an initiative I got involved with. We have one person already doing it and we’re finding out if others want to. I’m one of them.
How do you balance everything?
Balance has become really important for me over the years and part of our culture here is being flexible so people can work from home when they need to. I hear from our staff that they appreciate the flexibility.
It’s really about getting the job done. That doesn’t need to be in the office, and it doesn’t have to be from 8 to 5. Yes, we’re a client-service organization and have to have that coverage from 8 to 5, but we can work as a team to do that.
Do you set personal fitness goals?
No. I will say I push myself to do longer rides. Part of my personality is challenging myself. I like competitiveness … and mountain biking can be very self-motivating. But getting out with others helps push me as well.
I covet mountain biking time because it’s my time to de-stress. Raising four children and running a tax department are huge stressors in my life. If anything kills me, it will be stress. It won’t be lack of eating well, lack of exercise or not getting enough sleep. It will be the stress. All these things help to manage that stress. … But I solve more problems on my mountain bike than I do sitting at my desk. It’s awesome. It’s my other office — and it’s all mine.