Like most people, I am drawn to a leader who is selfless. Not simply selfless in that they put the needs of others above their own in interaction, but whose leadership and business philosophy are rooted in community and humanity. I met Anita Ledbetter, the Executive Director of Build San Antonio Green at one of Zpryme’s events several years ago, when she was on a panel I moderated. In the discussions around that panel we became friends over a shared love of grassroots climate action and canapes.

Build San Antonio Green is a nonprofit that creates green building standards for new development in the city of San Antonio as well as engaging with local groups and government agencies to promote cleaner living and higher quality of living within the city.Anita has defined success in that space as “trying to decrease and minimize human suffering through quality change”. That’s why I went to her for my first foray into writing leadership profiles for Zpryme. 

We chatted on a video call on a Wednesday afternoon. She was wearing her signature clear frame glasses and a blue tank to help combat the harsh san antonio summer. Behind her in the home office was a whiteboard with aphorisms of support and love, a reflection of recent tragedy that has struck her family. Even so, she has not lost her bubbly nature and optimistic outlook, peppered with facetious witticism. Her office contains some of her fond collector’s items: geodes, plants, art, though I did not get to see her purported crown jewel, a framed photo of an original Banksy. 

When she’s not roaming botanical gardens or having brunch, Anita is working on, well, Building San Antonio Green. The founder of Build SA Green William Senken, whom Anita cites as a role model and influence for her, took her on as an employee and protege after hearing a presentation she made about the rates of change from the deployment of new technologies in urban spaces while she worked for the 311 Human Systems wing of the Air Force. After Senken’s passing, she became the executive director where she has been for the last 19 years. 

She describes her leadership style as “leading with my heart and values. I try to think what positive change can I have?” Anita credits her family and upbringing for this mindset. “I came from extreme poverty, no consistent electricity or drinking water. But my family taught me to try and make things better off than how I found them.” Hearing her discuss her background and her professional journey helped me understand how she came to be an advocate for community and humanitarian environmentalism. “It all begins with people,” she said to me. “Sometimes it’s hard to speak out but you have to put your best foot forward and do the hard work that it takes to help humanity.” She encourages young professionals to “be authentic, and “think long-term, keep your perspective.” 

Signing off from the meeting, I gained a new appreciation for Anita’s story and her role in the San Antonio community. There are so many folks in San Antonio fighting for a better city with better lives for its citizens and its future generations of citizens. It makes me feel hopeful for the community that Anita is there with them fighting for green building standards and renewable energy. Our industry needs people-minded leaders to help cities and utilities better serve communities, and in my humble opinion it needs more Anita Ledbetters.