Leanna Breese

Meet Leanna Breese, WACSC Board Member

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Leanna Breese has made many contributions as a valuable Board member. We asked her to share highlights of her life and work with us. Leanna writes:

I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa. Intriguing places I wanted to see and experience seemed all too far away. I attended the University of Iowa, and the summer after my junior year I traveled, with a girl friend, to 13 European countries. That trip settled it — no way would I stay in Iowa after I graduated!

So, with a BBA in accounting, I moved to San Francisco — to me, the most European city in the US. I worked for Price Waterhouse (now Price Waterhouse Coopers) for six years, getting my CPA during that time. I wanted to stay in San Francisco, but with a company whose values and products I respected. I decided on Levi Strauss, and worked there for the next 23 years (along the way earning my MBA from UC Berkeley). At Levi’s, I moved from finance to operating divisions, and managed development and production for a number of products. But I wasn’t done traveling. In 1993 I went to Prague as General Manager of Levi Strauss International’s affiliate for the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

This was a truly fascinating time to be in Eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia had liberated itself peacefully from the Soviet Union in 1989, in what was termed the Velvet Revolution. There were a lot of entrepreneurial folks ready to make a difference as soon as the Soviets were gone.

When I arrived, Czechoslovakia was still a very supply-driven economy. The factories were manufacturing products solely to maximize their efficiencies, and consumers’ needs were simply not being considered. For example, if customers needed toilet paper, they had to buy a month’s supply at once because they wouldn’t see it on the shelves again for weeks. But by the time I left in 1997, that had totally changed, and retail supplies were readily abundant.

I took early retirement in 1997. By then I was married to a very special guy — Alec — whom I had been with for 10 years. We were ready to explore other countries and, full of energy, headed to Italy, where we lived for three months in Lucca, immersing ourselves in the wonderful Northern Italian life and language. From then on (until Covid19) we spent the better part of a month each year in Italy.

I became involved with WACSC because of Bob Kirk, who was president for many years. Bob was famous for recruiting volunteers. For example, I’d complained about not being able to get a reservation for a program on Vladimir Putin and the next thing I knew, I was Program Committee Chair! After seven years in that role we split the Chair position. Susan Standish took over the speaker acquisition role, and I focused on the venues and luncheon logistics, something I continued to do until the current pandemic required that we move our programs online.

I now enjoy the post of treasurer, a position I can do from anywhere, which is good because Alec and I go to Sarasota, Florida every winter. Two assistant treasurers, Jim Jepson and Tom Gemetti, make my job very easy, and I am grateful to them for donating their time and energy to our wonderful organization.

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