Pensacola, Florida
Monday May 28th 2018

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The Legacy of Denise McLeod

By Rick Outzen

After 42 years, Denise McLeod, the vice president of human resources at LandrumHR, is retiring. Under her leadership, Landrum Staffing grew to be the largest independent staffing service in the Florida panhandle. She leaves a legacy of professionalism, organizational acumen and compassion for her clients, employees and the community that few can rival.

Right out of college, McLeod went to work for Britt Landrum, Jr., who founded Landrum Professional Employer Services nearly five decades ago. The temporary help industry was relatively new, and the term “human resources” didn’t exist.

“It was personnel management back in those days, so I was so fortunate to get in on the ground floor with Landrum and the industry as a kid right out of college,” McLeod told Inweekly.

She was excited to work for Landrum.

“What better example of integrity, and ethical behavior, and wisdom, and compassion and just being so dang smart?” she said. “My peers and friends had never had that opportunity, and here I had it starting right out of the gate to learn from him and work for him, so I’m very thankful for that.”

McLeod’s enthusiasm impressed Landrum immediately.

“I’ll never forget when I first interviewed her,” he said. “She was 21 years old and fresh out of the University of Southern Mississippi. The thing that struck me so much about her was her attitude. I mean, she had the most uplifting kind of a spirit about her and a positive mental attitude.”

It didn’t take long for Landrum to realize he had a high performer on his hands.

“Denise was just so willing to accept responsibility and wade in and tackle the hardest jobs,” Landrum said. “We took on some very large accounts over the years, and she took responsibility for them and made sure our client was satisfied.”

Recreating Careers
At McLeod’s core was the desire to help people.

“In the business we’re in, you see folks at their highest and at their lowest when they are trying to, a lot of times, recreate themselves or get back on their feet,” said McCleod. “I’ve had the good fortune of interviewing and placing literally thousands of people in temporary and permanent jobs over all these years. There’s not too much more that’s this fulfilling in helping people get to where they need to be.”

Landrum shared with Inweekly a story about McLeod and her impact on people’s lives.

“I was in Subway getting a sandwich a couple years ago,” he said. “This lady stopped me and asked, ‘Is Denise McLeod still with you?’”

When he told her that she was, the woman said, “Well, you tell her hello from me. She got me my job with the city 20 years ago. I worked there, went up through the ranks and got to be the supervisor and head of the department. I’ll never forget that you guys started me on my career.”

Landrum added, “I can tell you that probably half a dozen times at least I’ve had somebody stop me and tell me a story like that.”

He said that McLeod’s talent for planning and organization was invaluable.

“Denise plans things way in advance,” Landrum shared. “Whenever we did computer upgrades, it went flawlessly because she started way ahead of time, documented everything and more or less mapped out how it was going to go day-by-day. Everybody trained and had a manual, and they were ready to go.

He continued, “She was just so organized. I guess that’s the thing that is such a delight about her. She’s so well-organized, and she just never, ever gives up. She’ll tackle it and stay with it until it’s done.”

Landrum also talked about her toughness, “We had one situation with a client who had a manager who was a little overbearing. And, boy, she’s 5’2″, but she stood up to him. She was fearless and took on a lot of responsibility for me.”

He added, “When I gave her the responsibility of general manager of our staffing service back in ’86, she ran with it and is responsible for its growth and profitability. She did an exceptionally fine job and was a true partner for me.”

Community Service
McLeod also has a long history of partnership with education, serving as a member of the Escambia County Business Education Advisory Committee, the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, the Escarosa Regional Tech Prep Consortium and the Escarosa regional school-to-work partnership. Denise was an active member of the planning council that proposed the organization and construction of the West Florida High School of Advanced Technology.

She was engaged for many years with the Pensacola Children’s Chorus, serving as the president of the Board of Directors for the chorus from 2006-2008.

She is a firm believer in giving back to the community.

“I have always believed that we weren’t put on this Earth to be mediocre and that it’s up to us as individuals to step up,” said McLeod. “We can’t expect other people to do it for us. If we are going to live in a community, I think we need to be invested in it.”

She continued, “I like helping others discover their potential regardless of what kind of organization it is and stretching groups and people to achieve things that they never thought they really could or would be vested in to truly make a difference.”

What’s Next
McLeod admitted that she didn’t have any “big, grandiose plans” after retirement.

“I do want to spend a lot more time with my family and friends because for way too long they’ve worked around my schedule,” she said. “Now I’m going to work around their schedule and be really happy about it.”

Once she works through the to-do list of things that she has wanted to get accomplished for years, McLeod said, “I’m going to do a cookbook that’s our family and friends’ old recipes with pictures just for my daughter—something I want her to have because I think that would have a lot of family history in it.”

She continued, “I just kind of feel like there are unlimited opportunities ahead, and I simply want to enjoy life—when, where and however I want to do it.”

When asked what advice she had for today’s college graduates, McLeod laughed and said she was old school. She advised that they think about more than just themselves and their jobs.

“When you learn and understand the value of relationships, good relationships, positive relationships, whether it’s in the workforce, at home, in committees that you serve on, whatever, you will find that good things will come to you,” she shared.

“You’ve got to be willing to make some sacrifices and maybe spend some time doing some things that aren’t at the top of your list,” said McLeod. “But even when you’re doing that, you’re learning valuable lessons that, in many cases, will follow you through the rest of your life. So just don’t be short-sighted.”