Sturm Center Advisory Council Spotlight
Leanne Wheeler - Advisory Council Chair
What is your personal motto, mantra or quote that you live by?
My personal motto is simple: Integrity First. And I operationalize it by telling my truth, as things or situations occur for me.
What three traits best describe you?
First, I am always for the underdog, hands down, which translates to compassion. Second, I am bold. Lastly, I am a problem solver.
What draws you to your work as an ambassador for the Military Psychology Specialty and the Sturm Center, along with mental health in general?
We have a propensity to use people up. This society was founded on such usury. When our citizens serve, and we cause harm to their physical person or their psyche, then We, the People have an obligation to see about their needs. With Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, our young service members – with war being their FIRST job – have endured multiple deployments and now suffer emotional and mental health injuries. We need service providers who understand such injuries, Sturm endeavors to provide them.
People would be surprised if they knew what about you?
I like this question. There are a lot of things that people would be surprised to know about me, but I am going to land on, I have trypanophobia. I also have a mean (amateur) Tango, and that I believe ballroom dance is absolute life!
What is your industry or professional role?
I am a Desert Storm Air Force Veteran, and spent 22+ years in the defense industry, before standing up my management consultant business, Wheeler Advisory Group. I am now blessed to serve as legislative advocate and educator and have entered the Permanent Supportive Housing development arena. My first project, Providence at the Heights (a 50-unit building), is now fully occupied by our former unhoused neighbors, and are thriving. I will be taking on a second project in the coming months.
What would you do (as a career) if you weren’t in that job?
This question is interesting. It was my intention to be a Chemical Engineer, as I graduated from a STEM school before that was a thing. I believe my life is shifting into what I will do next, write books and engage my neighbors to step into the civic and legislative arenas. We elect representative government, but we are not to abdicate our own responsibilities to our society.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
First, I am old enough to remember Black History Week! I have distinct memories of the fight to secure the month of February as Black History Month, and the overt efforts to prevent a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, at all.
I was intentional about re-educating myself about Black History, during my year of Jubilee (50th), as it was growing more and more clear that our history in this country has been grossly underestimated.
As for the celebration of Black History Month, I believe it to be an opportunity to educate non-Black Americans about the impact and influence of Black Americans in the formation of this country and our contributions to innovation and industry.
It has been said that Black History is America’s History. I wholly believe that.
What did you learn in the military that affected your leadership skills in the community today?
I was given an awful lot of responsibility at an incredibly young age. By 19-years-old, I was responsible for millions of dollars of communications equipment. My mentoring was stellar. My education was stellar. My first “boss” was Technical Sergeant Bell. He praised in public and chastised in private. He poured into his young troops. And he took the time to know us, what motivated each of us as individuals, and met us there. I endeavor to be this kind of leader, in all of my community work.