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Jeanne Stewart, 2008 Woman of Achievement

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Jeanne Stewart, 2008 Woman of Achievement
Woman of Achievement Jeanne Stewart’s life is combination of professional, personal and civic achievements, strength and leadership. “Jeanne E. Stewart embodies the role of a strong woman,” wrote her nominator, invoking the words of American author Washington Irving. “She’s the ‘spark of fire which kindles up and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.’”

Jeanne’s passion in her early adult life was her career. She worked for U.S. Bancorp in Portland for 13 years. “When I was working, my goals were professional and ambitious,” said Jeanne. “I liked the achievement, the increased involvement, increased pay and increased responsibility.”

After the birth of her son, Jeanne had concerns about the child care options available to her. “We figured out how to live on one salary,” she explains of her decision not to return to work.

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A few months later, one of Jeanne’s neighbors, Helen Donovan, called to say she was starting a support network and told Jeanne she would be the executive director. Skeptical at first, Jeanne wasn’t convinced that she had time to coordinate such a program while caring for a four-month-old child – to which Helen replied, “Well, the baby takes naps, doesn’t he?”

With that, Jeanne, Helen and Judy McConathy formed the Neighbor to Neighbor program. Their goal was to provide assistance to those around them in whatever form was needed: house cleaning, grocery shopping, or preparing meals for ill or injured neighbors.

In 1985 Jeanne and her husband began a family business as manufacturers’ sales representatives – a venture she still balances with her newest role of a member of the Vancouver City Council. Prior to her election in November 2001, Jeanne served in a variety of community service roles, including a five-year appointed term on the Vancouver Planning Commission, where she worked to establish both tree preservation and ground water protection ordinances. She served on the Carter Park Neighborhood Association, including two separate terms as chair; she also served as officer and chair of the Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance. While balancing the family business, a young child and her volunteer work, Jeanne earned an associate in arts and sciences degree with honors from Clark College.

Jeanne is a member of the local chapters of the Institute of Internal Auditors and Soroptimist International, the international organization committed to the betterment of women and children.

Through her volunteer and elected work, Jeanne understands the importance and challenges of dealing with human nature. “Human beings are the most unusual animals on the face of the earth – and we also have the potential to be the most dangerous,” she said. “Human beings are special in that every person is born with human dignity – but certain things – discrimination, unkindness and lack of education – undermine this. Human dignity that is harmed hurts all of us. Preserving that by having a society that is fair and honest – that protects us all. It’s not easy.”

“When identifying other issues that affect the quality of life – population centers, transportation, education, jobs – those directly affect the daily lives of citizens,” said Jeanne. “There are several theories, but finding the best mix is the key.”

Jeanne views her selection as a Woman of Achievement as not only an honor, but as a demonstration of respect women have for each other – something else about which she brings a ‘spark of fire.’

“We need to find time for women to get together, as men have for years, in a network of communication,” she said. “We need to know who we can go to, who we can rely on and how to use their talents to enhance our community.”


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