Louisville Magazine

OCT 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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54 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.18 After the ribbon cutting, Leet chats it up with business leaders and school administrators. "We need to leave if we're going to stick to schedule," says Leet's communications director, Sarah Durand. Durand turns to me and says, "She's very extroverted. She can go for hours, talking to people. It's exhausting for most of us." Back at the truck, Leet takes the wheel again. Durand says, "Usually on a campaign, the body person would drive so the candidate can make phone calls or whatever, write thank-you notes." Durand worked on Gov. Bevin's campaign and then was chief of staff for First Lady Glenna Bevin for close to a year. "Angela thinks I drive too slow." "You definitely drive too slow." (At one point, Leet grabs a bottle of lotion from the door and rubs some on her legs, no hands on the wheel as the truck flies down I-265.) "I'm a nervous driver," Durand says. "People are intimidated by the truck. I let other people do it, but they don't like to do it." "It's a boat." "It's not a boat. You know what I love about this one? It actually gets decent gas mileage and it has a huge tank — like, it goes for 400-and-something miles per tank. Campaigning at the gas station is actually really cool, so I've started doing it a couple of times a week. I always get to have conversations. 'You're that lady running for mayor, right? Well, can I tell you?' And I'm like, 'Yes, please tell me.'" Leet oozes the American Dream. She was adopted through Catholic Charities at six weeks old, though she didn't learn that detail until a couple months ago when she was at a picnic. She never thought to question how the transfer happened and has never met her birth parents. But she has understood that part of her identity since she was in fourth grade, when what had been explained to her before finally sunk in. "en you go through the whole range of emotions with that information," she says. "I think the initial reaction was: 'Well, you can't love me as much as you love the one that you had.'" (Leet has a sister close in age who is her parents' biological daughter.) As a teenager, Leet thought it was important to know where she came from. "I'm kind of a thoughtful person — to a flaw, sometimes," she says. "I think about things for a little while before I make a final step. I started to think: You know, it was probably actually a very loving thing to do to give me up for adoption. ey could have just not been capable of being parents or they didn't have a home to share with me or they were a young teenage mom that had wanted to do other things and I would've been neglected." Earlier this year, Leet was at Metro Corrections mentoring women going through the jail's addiction-recovery program. "Some of them had said that they had to give their babies up — they felt like they were mad at themselves — and I said, 'at's the most loving thing you can do.' I said, 'I thank my birth mom every day for the fact that she was selfless enough to know that she wasn't capable of being a mom.'" Leet and her husband and their two sons now live on four acres in the Mockingbird Valley area in a house valued at $3.6 million — among the most expensive in town — which Leet designed down to the geothermal heating system. It's far from her modest upbringing in Hikes Point. Neither of her parents attended college, and Leet's father, a United Auto Worker and Ford Motor Co. employee, worked off and on for a number of years during "the Carter recession," as Leet specifies in her online bio. Leet grasped this struggle and says she knew from about age 10 that she always needed to be in a position of financial security. Her work ethic gelled through mowing lawns at $7 apiece and babysitting. At one point, she offered to iron her family's clothes for $1 a week. "Pfft," she says, rolling her eyes at the memory. "I soon learned that was not a good proposition for me." Her first real job was as a food runner at Ponderosa in Hikes Point, for $2-something an hour, plus tips — sometimes generous $5 ones, she says — that got her through college, especially after her mom came to her and told her that she and her father wouldn't be able to pay for school any longer. "And I said, 'I'm moving out next week.' And she said, 'Why are you gonna do that? You'll have to pay for your car and your tuition and your books and your insurance.' I said, 'All one problem: cash flow. I'll figure it out.'" Already working in the restaurant and doing odd jobs, she tacked on work as a teacher's assistant doing computer-aided drafting for coal mine reclamation. e juggle was simple for someone who craves complexity. When she was in fifth grade, Leet aspired to be a brain surgeon. Specifically, she wanted to be the first person to perform a brain transplant. A math and science lover, she tinkered with different career paths like renewable energy throughout middle and high school. She'd spent a lot of time with her dad in the garage, working on carburetors and installing engines, so engineering made sense for Leet, who graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in 1987, in the same class as state Sen. Julie Raque Adams. While at the University of Louisville's J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Leet had a calculus test each week. "I remember I was getting beat every week by Eastern High School alumni," she says. "You know, kids that went to public high school were outperforming me on calculus." So she went back to Sacred Heart and told them the school needed to step it up. "ey've really come a long way," she says. In student government at U of L, several students, including Leet, wanted to get into environmental engineering, an emerging field at the time that the school had eliminated during budgets cuts. "So we lobbied for that too," she says. "Campaigning at the gas station is actually really cool, so I've started doing it a couple of times a week. I always get to have conversations. 'You're that lady running for mayor, right? Well, can I tell you?' And I'm like, 'Yes, please tell me.'"

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