Jeanne Firstenburg, 2009 Woman of Achievement
With a passion for business and philanthropy, 2009 Woman of Achievement Jeanne Firstenburg believes that “Community banking is about giving back to your community.”
Born in La Grande, Oregon, Jeanne planned to pursue a career in medicine. But, growing up, she saw the world of small business first-hand. Her mother was a florist; her father was a landscaper.
Jeanne graduated magna cum laude from St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Washington with a bachelor of arts degree in business administration and accounting.
She then ran Northwest Imports, a small wholesale importing business, for 15 years.
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Jeanne joined the accounting firm of Knight Vale and Gregory in Olympia. She then went to work as a bank regulator for Washington state before joining First Independent Bank, where she serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
Her nominator notes that Jeanne was tapped to lead “the ‘reinvention’ of a local family-owned community bank into a vibrant regional company with a sustainable future and nearly $1 billion in assets. To accomplish this, she had to earn and maintain shareholder trust, employee confidence and client acceptance while initiating large-scale changes. She helped rebuild the bank’s infrastructure (people, systems, products and services) to compete with local community banks and the largest regional institutions in Southwest Washington and Oregon.”
Jeanne credits “a phenomenal team of people for taking the bank into the 21st century.” She adds, “I love to work. I’m inspired by everything. I never know from day to day what my greatest inspiration is going to be, but I always find it by the end of the day.”
Her nominator describes Jeanne as “a natural-born leader…a woman of high energy and a can-do attitude…a business and community leader who inspires and recruits others to get involved in important causes.”
In the past five years, First Independent and the Firstenburg family have invested more than $26 million in local nonprofits, hospitals and universities. Jeanne has been a strong advocate for creating an environment where employees give back to the community by volunteering through the bank’s Helping Hands program. Jeanne notes, “Whether it’s about giving your time, your money or your special talents, it’s about giving back. You have to lace that spirit throughout your organization if you truly want to be a community bank that’s making a difference.”
Jeanne’s community involvement includes service as a board member of the Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation as well as co-chair of its capital campaign, which exceeded its $50 million goal. She has also served as a board member of the Washington State University Advisory Council, a fundraiser and volunteer for YWCA Clark County, including as a member of the Classic Wine Auction Advisory Board and past chair of the “Go Red” campaign for the American Heart Association in Clark County.
Jeanne and her husband Bill love to travel. They also enjoy spending time with their blended family, which includes “five children, seven grandchildren and four living parents.”
Another word that defines Jeanne is gratitude. “On the darkest day, I can always find a thousand people who are having more difficult times and make me appreciate my life,” she says. “I believe that we are all accountable for helping our community.”
“This is the most generous, kindhearted community I’ve ever lived in,” Jeanne says. “It’s more important now than ever to find ways to help our community overcome the monumental challenges that we face due to the economic situation in our country. We need to discover creative ways to keep all of our wonderful programs and nonprofits and schools healthy. I think we’re responsible for making that happen.”