Lee Anne Oxford keeps a quote from Winston Churchill posted in her office: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
It’s a good reminder, said Oxford, marketing director for Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper L&M Cos. Inc.
“I’m not afraid to push and I certainly speak out more than I should,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t have the reputation of being a shy person around here.”
She jokes about talking too much, but Robert Guenther, United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice president of public policy, said Oxford ably balances listening and understanding with offering opinions.
Guenther works with her on United Fresh’s Government Relations Council, which Oxford has been on since 2005.
“We can sometimes get tangled up in D.C.-type jargon, and she’s able to listen to complex issues, learn, and bring back to the table what she thinks is important for businesses,” Guenther said.
Oxford is especially interested in how regulation and public policy affect produce businesses. Guenther said she brings valuable insight gained through her industry experience and formal education.
Oxford earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Wake Forest University and worked in banking before joining L&M’s vegetable sales division.
She attended night classes at Duke University and earned a master’s in business administration. She’s worked in many areas of the company, including accounting, human relations and account management, as well as marketing.
Oxford said it’s important to her to bring out the best in her employees and to help find roles that are right for them. She also said she holds high expectations.
“If you ask someone else about me, probably they’d say I’m pretty hardcore, but also, I hope, kindhearted,” Oxford said.
She has many mentors and role models, including family members, as well as industry leaders Frieda Caplan, founder of Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s Inc., and Maureen Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y.
Oxford said part of what she admires in Marshall is her ability to balance business with motherhood and community involvement.
Oxford strives for a similar balance. She and her husband, John Oxford, who is president of L&M, have two children, Clay, 10, and Callie, 6.
Oxford keeps office hours at L&M, but adjusts her schedule to attend sports, dance and school activities. The four enjoy hiking, skiing and traveling together.
“I’m all about making the most of being a mom along with making the most of work,” she said.
L&M was founded by Oxford’s father, Joe McGee, in 1964. Oxford’s brother, Mike McGee, is vice president of production and grower development, and her cousin Greg Cardamone is general manager of the vegetables unit.
“I take great pride in the fact that we’re a family business that’s been around for a long time,” Oxford said. “It sounds hokey, but we live by our values and that really makes me proud.”