After 30 years, Lee Sanders is stepping down as vice president of government relations and public affairs of the American Bakers Association. A look back at her career shows an exemplary track record of industry service.Josh Sosland PortraitJosh Sosland, editor of Milling & Baking News... 

First recruited by Paul Abenante to the ABA in 1993 to assist with legislative and regulatory matters, Ms. Sanders in the years that followed gained renown for her developing expertise at crafting positions that reflected the views of the baking industry broadly, aggressively helping the industry pursue its agenda on Capitol Hill, at agencies throughout the Beltway and, more recently, at the state level. Colleagues at the ABA admire Ms. Sanders for her deep knowledge of industry issues, from Chinese honey to the Conservation Reserve Program, and for her expertise in the ins and outs of the regulatory process.

At a time when lip service is paid to the idea of inter-organizational collaboration but “guarding my turf” remains the norm, Ms. Sanders for years has been a role model for association professionals. Beyond her considerable workload drafting letters or comments advocating sensible regulations and policies, Ms. Sanders has devoted countless hours to working across the breadth of the grain-based and even the entire food and beverage industry to pursue common interests. This work was fully aligned with ABA’s vision of becoming an organization that helps the baking industry grow and prosper through “public policy, education and networking.”

In becoming involved in organizations beyond the ABA, Ms. Sanders went far beyond making obligatory appearances. Rolling up her sleeves, she has spent more than a decade on the board and executive committee of the Wheat Quality Council, serving as board chair from 2016-17. For her work toward improving wheat and flour quality, she received the WQC’s Full Kernel Award in 2017. At AACCI (now the Cereals & Grains Association), Ms. Sanders is a past chair of the Milling & Baking Division and was honored with the Myron D. “Mike” Baustian Memorial Award for outstanding service. She has similarly been engaged with and honored by the American Society of Baking.

Asked recently what achievement during her time at the ABA gives her the greatest sense of pride, Ms. Sanders could have cited any number of monumentally important legislative or regulatory issues touching every corner of baking, from the implementation of the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act to the Food Safety Modernization Act. Instead, Ms. Sanders spoke of work the entire ABA team did to help keep baking companies operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to numerous resources the ABA helped provide members, she said the success the baking industry enjoyed in sustaining its operations during the crisis days of the pandemic would not have been possible without the bond with other industry associations forged through the FBIA and the lines of communications with the FDA and other agencies kept open through the alliance.

Finding capable organizational leadership ranks high among challenges facing the corporate and association world today. Ms. Sanders is more than capable. She is calm, caring, committed, competent, connected, effective, experienced and very knowledgeable. In leaving the ABA, Ms. Sanders declared her “passion for the baking industry will never diminish.” It is hoped her next chapter lands this gifted professional within or as close as possible to the orbit of the grain-based foods industry.