Korte & Kowatch Team

David B. Korte, MST, CPA, AEP®

“My first job – when I was 14 years old – was at the local Dairy Queen. I was paid $2.50 per hour and was able to save $1,000 over one summer.”

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David Korte’s great grandfather, Russ Walsh, was a very well-known magician during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

My Story

I was born near the Detroit area in Dearborn, Michigan, and when I was three years old, my family moved to Cadillac, Michigan, a town of approximately 10,000.

My first job – when I was 14 years old – was at the local Dairy Queen. I was paid $2.50 per hour and was able to save $1,000 over one summer. The same local family, which owned the Dairy Queen, also owned the Kentucky Fried Chicken, so after the DQ closed for the summer, I began working at KFC. While working at KFC, the owner asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told him that I wanted to be a tax attorney. I was only 15, but somehow knew what would eventually come true.

During my senior year of high school, I began working at The Pines Nightclub as a disc jockey. Back then we were actually spinning records! I credit my experience working at bar for bringing out much of the personality people know today. Prior to this experience, I was a very shy kid with a personality that fit more of the traditional accountant. I often make the joke that you can tell you’re talking to an extroverted accountant because they are looking at your shoes instead of their own when speaking to you. Early on, I spent a lot of time looking at my shoes. Over six years and two different bars, my personality grew and I became comfortable conversing with just about anyone.

During my college years, I had several other jobs that ran concurrent with working at the nightclub. Pruning Christmas trees during the summer of 1988 was, hands down, the job that convinced me that I must finish my college education.

I graduated in December 1991 from Central Michigan University with a degree in accounting. Unfortunately, I graduated without a job in my chosen field, so I went back home to Cadillac and continued working at The Pines at night while working for a small tax and accounting service during the day.

After more than a year of doing this, I knew the only way to move forward was to be somewhere with greater professional opportunity, so I moved to Grand Rapids in the spring of 1993. I enrolled in a CPA review course and worked part time for a moving company. Just after taking the CPA exam in the fall of 1993, I was offered temporary employment at Old Kent Bank, and within a month, received a full time offer. I passed the CPA exam, but knew I needed audit experience to gain my CPA license.

I interviewed and received a job offer from BDO Seidman in July 1996. During the BDO interview process, I realized just how far behind I was compared to my peers . . . the individuals interviewing me were my age and younger and so much further ahead in their careers. Now was time to get serious about my career.

At BDO, I was given the opportunity to meet and work with many great clients, and many of the relationships I established at BDO continue today for which I remain thankful.

I’ve been married to Angela Balbaugh since 1999. We met volunteering for the Grand Valley State University Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program. At that time she worked for Plante Moran, and we were the only people from our firms that didn’t come with a co-worker . . . so we got paired up and have been paired up ever since.

We have two children, Kyle and Eva. Kyle and I began scuba diving together in 2011. It is my favorite father-son activity. Eva is a gymnast. I watch her train and compete with incredible pride.

My Expertise

I am the founder of Korte & Kowatch (formerly Korte Consulting, PLLC); a Grand Rapids based tax-consulting practice. I specialize in tax compliance and consulting services for high net worth families, ranging in size from $5 million to $500 million.

I have significant experience in advising private organizations and their shareholders on domestic issues including federal taxation, state and local taxation, trust and estate issues. I have been extensively involved in numerous capital transactions. These include pre-IPO gifting and structuring; reorganization of multiple businesses within a family group; formation of new entities for transfer tax purposes and purchase of off-shore manufacturing facilities.

I started my practice in January 2002 after spending six-and-a-half years with BDO Seidman, LLP, which I joined BDO from the private sector. In the private sector, I was an income tax administrator in the trust tax department of Old Kent Bank, where my responsibilities included trust document analysis for federal income tax purposes, tax compliance for trusts and individuals.

I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University and my Master of Science in Taxation from Grand Valley State University.

I am professionally affiliated with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants and the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.

Philip L. Kowatch, MST, CPA

“Although it was very costly to attend Northwood, my work on the farm allowed me to amass a very sizeable nest egg for an 18-year-old.”

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None of Philip Kowatch’s grandparents or parents had gone to college. Since he was the oldest of seven children, he was going to be a pioneer.

My Story

I was born and raised in the village of Pewamo, Michigan, a small community just north of Lansing settled by German farmers in the mid-1800s. My grandparents and my parents were dairy farmers, and I began working on the farm at a young age. Operating a dairy farm involves long days and a lot of stress. The cows had to be milked early in the morning, and then again in the evening. We were always tuned in to the price of milk much like investors watch the stock market. But my family was always upbeat, and it was extremely fulfilling to be able to work together as a family on the farm.

When I was 12 years old my father sold the dairy farm, and I had no place to use my farming skills until a neighbor hired me to work on his dairy farm for the next 10 years at $2 per hour. During the school year, I got off the school bus and headed to the farm to milk cows before coming home to do my homework.

Needless to say, I had always imagined that I would make farming my career. It was not until I was a high school sophomore that I began to seriously think that I might want to do something else. I signed up for an accounting class and though I discovered that I was pretty good at it, I soon realized that I would need a college degree. None of my grandparents or parents had gone to college, and since I was the oldest of seven children, I was going to be a pioneer. Unlike many high school students who have natural uncertainty about what they want to do with their careers, I was uniquely focused on what I wanted to do.

I attended Northwood University, in Midland, Michigan, a small, private business school that was not too large and overwhelming for a farm kid. Northwood valued individual freedom and individual responsibility and emphasized promoting and leveraging the global, diverse and multi-cultural nature of entrepreneurial enterprises. Although it was very costly to attend Northwood, my work on the farm allowed me to amass a very sizeable nest egg for an 18-year-old. Further, Northwood helped me to obtain scholarship funds (contingent upon academic performance) and financial aid in order to make it feasible. I also obtained a work-study position at the school library to earn extra funds, and most weekends I would commute back home in order to put in some hours on the farm.

During my junior and senior years, I was an intern in the tax department at the Midland office of Deloitte & Touche. I would generally complete my class schedule by noon, and then head to the Deloitte office to work during the afternoons. During tax season, I also worked weekends.

After college graduation, I was fortunate to have offers from several accounting firms, but wanted to continue with Deloitte & Touche tax group in Grand Rapids. I passed the CPA exam and obtained a Masters of Taxation degree at Grand Valley State University. I worked at Deloitte & Touche until I joined David Korte’s firm in 2008.

My wife Stephanie and I met on a blind date in 2001 and were married on July 24th of 2004. Two years later we welcomed our first daughter, Eva. We now have a son Leo, another daughter Audrey, and another son, Henrik.

My Expertise

From 1997 to 2008, I practiced as a tax professional at Deloitte & Touche in the Midland and Grand Rapids offices where I was exposed to several areas of tax. My primary focus was on serving high net-worth individuals, family offices, and closely held businesses throughout the country. I also served as a lead engagement professional on multiple compliance and consulting engagements involving multi-tier partnership/LLC flow-through structures and was responsible for annual tax compliance of clients with closely held businesses, high net-worth individuals, and exempt-organizations.

I first met David Korte professionally through a mutual client and recognized that we both had similar client bases and skill sets. As Dave’s practice continued to develop and grow, Dave asked me to join his firm. I was very intrigued by the prospect of working with Dave because I could see that Dave was more than just an accountant to his clients. He was also a trusted advisor with deep relationships with several prominent families and individuals. I was also attracted to the opportunity to become a partner in the practice and the entrepreneurial experience of running a business. It was extremely difficult for me to leave Deloitte after more than 10 years, but in late 2008, I took a bit of a leap of faith and joined Dave’s practice. At the beginning of 2013, I became a partner in Korte & Kowatch.

I am a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants. My community activities include serving as an officer of the boards of Racing Awareness and The West Michigan Estate Planning Council as well as Treasurer of St. Matthew Lutheran Church.

Mabelle A. Lawson, CPA

Mabelle A. Lawson, CPA

“Korte & Kowatch’s niche client base has provided me with challenging work while still allowing me flexibility for my family.”

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My Story

I grew up in Fruitport Michigan, where I now live with my husband (Josh) and 2 children (Riley & Wyatt). After graduating high school, I attended Western Michigan University on an academic scholarship. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences. After graduation, I stayed home with my children until they both were of school age. At that time, I made the decision to go back to school. I have always enjoyed the problem solving and analytical nature of math, this led to the decision to pursue a degree in accounting. I graduated, with honors, from Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduation I was hired by Rehmann, where I gained experience preparing individual and corporate tax returns.

Mabelle A. Lawson, CPA joined Korte & Kowatch in July of 2019.

Kristel R. Marshall, CPA

“I knew in high school that I wanted to be an accountant, so I decided to take many business and math classes as elective courses.”

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My Story

I grew up in Owosso, Michigan and this is where my family and I resided until I moved away to college. During the summers of high school, I worked for Old Kent Bank (now 5/3 bank) as a floater teller for various branches from Lansing to Flint. This job taught me how to interact with clients as well as enhancing my talents with ten key speed and counting cash (vastly competitive when challenged). I knew in high school that I wanted to be an accountant, so I decided to take many business and math classes as elective courses. This helped me expand my knowledge for my career aspirations as well as escalate my “class pet” status. I graduated as valedictorian of high school and went on to attend Northwood University in Midland Michigan. Northwood was an all business school and coincided with my career goals. This is where I met Phil Kowatch and developed a friendship that brought me to Korte & Kowatch today.

My Expertise

During college, I worked at Deloitte and Touche in Midland (along with Phil), preparing tax returns and helping with personal finance. I worked at the firm after class and during the summers for three years. My senior year, I worked in the finance department at Northwood and learned a little bit about running a business and watching the administrative group interact with students, teachers and donors. I graduated from Northwood in May of 1999 as valedictorian and started my career working for Plante and Moran in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here, I obtained my CPA license in 2001 after passing the exam and completing the work experience requirements. I worked for P&M for 11 years filing tax returns and completing audits throughout Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. P&M was a great company to work for and helped me to establish valuable foundations in technical skills and developing relationships. I left P&M after 11 years, due to my interest of working in industry and the desire to learn more about running a business financially. I went on to work for one of my favorite clients, Holland Hospital for 8 years in the finance department as the finance manager and director. Upon the birth of my second child, I left the hospital. Phil and I reconnected, and I joined Korte & Kowatch in November 2018.

Julie M. Striegle

“I joined Korte Consulting in 2006 with 10 years of public accounting administrative experience at Plante & Moran’s Gaylord and Grand Rapids offices.”

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My Story

Julie joined Korte & Kowatch in 2006 with 10 years of public accounting administrative experience at Plante & Moran, in their Gaylord and Grand Rapids offices. Prior to that she worked in the cosmetology field.

She is responsible for, but not limited to, administrative support to the office staff, which includes bookkeeping, tax return processing, and other administrative tasks.

After spending six years in Gaylord Michigan she returned to Grand Rapids Northwest side, where she grew up. She now lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and her two children.

She enjoys spending time outdoors with family and friends and enjoys travel of all kinds. Julie considers Florida her home away from home. She gives back to her children’s school both academically and through sporting events.

Her interests also include volunteering her time to racingawareness.com, a nonprofit organization in support of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital located in Grand Rapids.


Marsha Schmuker

Marsha A. Schmuker, CPA

“I gained invaluable experience addressing the complex tax issues of a high net worth and high-profile family.”

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My Story

I was born in Grand Rapids and have always lived here. I love the Grand Rapids area and all it has to offer. My husband, Dave, and I were married in October 1994. Our two children, Megan and David, are both in college.

I began to consider a career in accounting when I was in high school. It was at that time that I participated in the Explorer program, sponsored by the Boy Scouts. The Explorer program provided the opportunity for high school students to learn about careers they were interested in by giving them exposure to professionals working in that field. I spent one evening a week for six weeks with accountants from Seidman & Seidman (now BDO) learning about opportunities for accountants. The many opportunities that the career offered and my love of math led me to believe that accounting would be the right career path for me. Little did I know that one day I would be employed by BDO as a tax accountant!

I graduated with honors from Aquinas College. After college, I worked for a small public accounting firm that provided accounting and tax services primarily to doctors’ offices. During this time, I earned the CPA designation and license.

I decided to pursue an opportunity with Spartan Stores, Inc. I was responsible for the tax compliance for the independently owned stores and store owners.

In 1994, I went to work at BDO Seidman. It was at BDO that I first worked with David Korte. I enjoyed the variety of clients and the client interactions that BDO provided me. Desiring a more flexible work schedule, in 2002 I went to work in the tax department at RDV Corporation, the family office for the DeVos family. In my 17 plus years at RDV, I gained invaluable experience addressing the complex tax issues of a high net worth and high-profile family.

In June of 2019, I began discussions with David Korte about an opportunity with Korte & Kowatch. What impressed me about Korte & Kowatch was not only did they serve clients that were some of West Michigan’s wealthiest individuals, but they also seemed to genuinely care about their clients. This validated my feeling that Korte & Kowatch would be the ideal environment to build upon my strengths and continue my career, and I joined the firm in October 2019.

37 Ottawa Ave NW, Suite 200
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
P (616) 774-2727  |  F (616) 776-2764