Fleetowner 7029 Mele121415

A happy accident

Jan. 5, 2017
Celebrating a singular career in trucking

I’m very happy that after a distinguished career revolving around trucking, my long-time friend and colleague Wendy Leavitt is moving into a new stage where she can spend more time enjoying her family and non-trucking passions. Some might call it retirement, but in Wendy’s case that term just doesn’t fit her energetic and enthusiastic engagement over nearly four decades with an industry and its people that she clearly loves.

As Wendy tells it, she came to trucking “by accident.”  How else would you describe it when someone with graduate degrees in English and Art History grows dissatisfied with book publishing and finds herself in the engineering department of a major truck OEM? 

When she showed up on a whim at the employment office of Kenworth Trucks in her hometown of Seattle, she told them, “I don’t know trucks from farm animals.” But she did have one relevant skill — she’d learned how to fold blueprints by helping out her engineer father. And, of course, she could write. So in the belief that you can teach someone about trucks, but you can’t teach them how to write (or apparently fold blueprints), she joined KW’s safety and compliance engineering team, translating federal regulations into words the engineers could understand and ensuring their documents met those regulatory requirements.

Over the next six years, Wendy did indeed learn about trucks, and not just in a theoretical way. Then her unbounded sense of curiosity led her out of truck engineering and into marketing and public relations for Kenworth. Or as she recalls, “I wanted to do some writing that was more creative than reworking the Federal Register.”

That’s when I first met Wendy. If I went to a truck show or a conference or a press event, she was there, not just promoting the views of her employer but also representing the trucking industry. And it wasn’t empty boosterism but rather a sincere conviction. As she wrote last month in her last column for Fleet Owner, “It has been one of the great privileges of my life to be able to work in this tough industry that I have come to love so much.”

Some 18 years ago we were lucky enough to convince Wendy to bring her talents, deep knowledge and, most importantly, boundless curiosity to Fleet Owner. Wendy's role here has not only been invaluable, but it has also been truly unique — that is, singular and not found elsewhere in publishing or media.

As an editor, she has contributed the kinds of insightful reporting and analysis only the best can deliver. And in industry meetings and with essential trucking organizations, Wendy has been a public face for Fleet Owner, representing us with integrity and commitment that has earned her friends in all corners of this diverse business.

But less visible to the public, Wendy also turned her marketing skills to help mold our strategic vision as a media outlet for trucking. For example, if you’ve attended any of our webinars over the last few years, you’ve benefited from Wendy’s skill at guiding complex concepts into valuable resources.

Over the years, she’s also been visiting the suppliers and manufacturers that serve trucking to help them understand your business needs and challenges. And most importantly to me and the rest of the staff here, Wendy has been an unfaltering source of ideas, important questions and encouragement, always with her eye on delivering excellence for our audience.

So while I am extremely happy that Wendy now gets to explore this next chapter in her life, I’m also relieved to say that she has agreed to continue working with us on those special projects that best suit her unique blend of talents.

Recalling her years of involvement with trucking, Wendy says she “feels for­tunate for meeting some of the nicest people on earth and for some fabulous adventures.” Whether you’ve been among the fortunate many who’ve personally met Wendy or only know her through her work on our pages, I hope you’ll share your good wishes for her as she moves on to her next fabulous adventure. You can contact her at [email protected].

About the Author

Jim Mele

Nationally recognized journalist, author and editor, Jim Mele joined Fleet Owner in 1986 with over a dozen years’ experience covering transportation as a newspaper reporter and magazine staff writer. Fleet Owner Magazine has won over 45 national editorial awards since his appointment as editor-in-chief in 1999.

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