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Boeing CEO wouldn’t change growing up in Derby

Leanne Caret is president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS), a $26 billion unit that works with customers in the U.S. and around the world.

But before earning the position that requires her to travel as far as India and Saudi Arabia, she spent her formative years in the small city of Derby.

“I meet people [from] all around the world who have the most incredible backgrounds, and I would not change how I grew up for any of theirs,” Caret said.

Caret was born Leanne Guyette in Cocoa Beach, Florida near the Kennedy Space Center, where her parents Ray and Deneen worked for Boeing on the Saturn 5 Apollo Program. They eventually moved to Seattle before settling in Derby, where her parents worked at the nearby Boeing headquarters in Wichita.

“I’m second-generation Boeing. My whole life is Boeing; that defines who I am,” she said.

After moving to Derby, Caret and her family lived within walking distance of El Paso Elementary, where she attended sixth grade. She later attended the former Derby Junior High.

Caret recalled fond memories of the safety and freedom she felt as a child in Derby, often traveling the city on bicycle with her sister in the summer.

“You had a sense of belonging, you had a sense of family,” she said. “It was clearly a town that was very self-contained.”

Seeing progress in the city now is great because residents have access to more conveniences, Caret said, “but I can’t help but think that small-town feeling is still there.”

Caret graduated in 1984. While in high school, one of Caret’s most inspiring figures was her 9th grade algebra teacher, Mary Cunningham. She described the teacher as stern but someone who “captured your heart and mind.”

“I was still in the generation of students where you didn’t look to females as being really strong in math and the sciences,” Caret said. “[On the blackboard], she wrote down who got a 100 on the Algebra exam, and she wrote my name down … right then I realized ‘maybe this is something I’m good at.’”

Math is one of Caret’s favorite subjects, even today.

Cunningham died while Caret was still at Derby High, prompting Cunningham’s family to start a memorial scholarship for her. As a senior, Caret was awarded the scholarship.

Caret also met her husband Steve of 30 years at Derby High, even attending prom with him. A graduate of Wichita State and Baker University, he works as an industrial engineer.

DHS Principal Tim Hamblin, one of Caret’s classmates at Derby High, said he had nothing but great memories of her.

“She was without a doubt one of the sweetest, prettiest and brightest classmates I had,” he said.

Leanne (Guyette) Caret, 1984 

In his commencement speech at the 2019 Derby High School graduation ceremony, Hamblin mentioned her as an example of a successful and prominent Panther.

“When I came up with my thoughts about ‘what it means to be a Panther,’ she was first in my mind,” Hamblin said. “What always surprised me is the unbelievable fight and tenacity she must have displayed to get where she is.”

“It was always there, but never anything she would ever boast about or flaunt.”

Originally an engineering major, Caret graduated from Kansas State University in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She began working at Boeing the same year, holding multiple roles in contracts and program management.

Her first position involved making “proposals for the government, and you would go do negotiations with the customer,” she said. “It was a part of the company where you could learn a lot about the whole business, and I think that was helpful early in my career.”

She earned her master’s degree in business administration by taking night classes at Wichita State while working at Boeing.

An unexpected rise

Caret said her rise to CEO was unconventional, having worked various positions that were not always promotions but “lateral” movements.

“The worst thing for anyone is to try to put a timeline on their achievements,” she said. “Because everybody’s career is different. If you look back at my career, no one could have predicted based on my earlier careers that I would be in the position I am today.”

In 2009, Caret moved to the Philadelphia area to work at a Boeing plant in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. She first led the Chinook program there, before transitioning to lead the entire Vertical Lift portfolio in 2013.

In 2014, she relocated to St. Louis, the former home of BDS headquarters, to be chief financial officer of the unit. She became president of BDS’ global services and support department in 2015, eventually leading to her appointment as CEO the following year.

Caret’s current post is at the BDS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, only 30 minutes away from the nation’s capital.

“I moved [the headquarters] to Washington, D.C. because we needed to be closer to the customer at my level,” she said. “My office is right next to the Pentagon, … so I look out my window and can wave at them.”

Since taking the CEO position, Caret was named in Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women list in 2017 and 2018. She also appeared on the Bloomberg 50 list last year.

According to, she is the second-highest paid executive at Boeing, with a salary of over $10 million.

In January, Caret made a visit to the Wichita area for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base.

Most recently, she spoke at the spring 2019 commencement ceremony for the Barton Business School and the College of Engineering at Wichita State, where she earned her master’s degree.

During her speech, she told the students to build success using four “G” words: grit, gumption, grace, and gratitude.

“We call them the good forces,” she said. “Those are four things that I think could be of some benefit to anyone.”

Derby's long-range plan gets underway

For new Derby resident Lavonda Norrod, spending time visiting about what the city’s future could be was an occasion well spent.

“It was very interesting,” she said after viewing display boards and talking with city and planning officials at the first Vision Derby 2040 gathering, which was held on May 21 at The Venue. “A city this size needs to focus that far in advance.”

Norrod, who moved to Derby in October after living for 39 years in Rose Hill, said she’s pleased with the city and its resources.

“One of the reasons I moved here is that you have everything you need,” said the civil service retiree. “I’m pretty happy so far.”

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. Things change, and needs and wants shift – and that’s one of the many reasons why it’s necessary to put down what the future could and should be. That’s what planners such as Marty Shukert, principal with the Omaha-based firm of RDG Planning and Design, stress.

“One of our jobs is to take ideas and recommendations and pull them together in a unified vision,” he said. There are common themes that can be connected.”

Shukert and his firm are becoming more familiar with Derby as it handled the K-15 Corridor Plan along with work on the Walkability Study.

Vision Derby is different from the typical city five-year plan, which usually revolves around capital improvement projects.

In addition, a long-term plan such as this often has an influence for an even longer term, such as 40 years, he said, so it can really set the stage for several generations.

Shukert said he and his team are interested in hearing about all sorts of suggestions, including specific ones.

One precise idea Shukert received had to do with developing a new downtown district along Madison between K-15 and Woodlawn.

“That was a really intriguing idea,” he said. “I don’t know how feasible it is, but it’s interesting.”

Variety of suggestions

Despite its size of almost 25,000 people, Derby doesn’t have a standard downtown the way a city such as Newton does. But that’s not uncommon, Shukert said, for cities that really started growing after World War II and were spurred by the automobile and suburban housing.

At this event, display boards dealt with a variety of subjects, such as housing, parks, transportation, infrastructure and related subjects.

Attendees put colored post-it notes with their comments on the boards.

Among the suggestions: enlist more young people in the planning process, more public transit, allow golf carts on streets, a bridge at 95th Street, a teen center, market Derby as a corporate headquarters, more affordable senior housing, a big park on the north side, a mental health care center and connect the parks.

There also were concerns, such as “blight in the older neighborhoods.”

Del del Pino, who has lived here since 1977, believes one of the major challenges is the K-15 area.

“I realize it’s an older part of town,” he said. “We have a beautiful thing on Rock Road, but there’s a lot of population that lives on the west and south side. Let’s not forget K-15 is a well-traveled road so it has great exposure for the towns south of here and Wichita.”

The separate, completed K-15 study will be incorporated into the Vision Derby 2040 plan.

He said that’s fine, but wants to ensure that the recommendations in the K-15 plan are acted on.

Overall, del Pino is pleased with the city’s growth.

“I remember when Derby was a one-traffic-light town with a flashing red light at Madison and K-15,” he said. “Now all these traffic lights are a good sign of growth.”

A retiree, del Pino also would like to see more young people, especially people in their 20s and 30s, involved in this process.

He lamented that they will be the most affected by it, but they’re also at the stage in their lives where they’re often too busy for such endeavors.

While RDG has done these types of studies for other cities, no two are alike, said Charlie Cowell, an urban planner 

with the firm.

“Every community is different and every community has a different character,” he said.

Residents can expect to hear and see more about the long-range plan during the next nine to 12 months.

Officials plan to go to several events during the summer, including the National Night Out, in order to meet with citizens and get their suggestions.

“These first two months are about hearing from as many people as possible,” he said. “It’s important that we capture the input.”

City Planner Justin Givens agreed that comments are vital.

“We need citizen participation,” he said.

The point is to explore what people want Derby to be in the future, he said.

For more information and to take the survey, go to Paper copies also are available at City Hall.

Derby splits third after first semifinal berth since 2013

Everything about Kasey Hamilton’s state line suggested she was almost unhittable. 

The Washburn Rural starting pitcher entered Friday morning’s semifinals with a 13-0 record, 0.40 ERA and 70 strikeouts. 

Derby bats stung the KU signee for 10 hits and five earned runs, but couldn’t complete its rally in a 6-5 loss. It was playing in its first state semifinal in six years, but fell just short of playing for its first state championship. 

The Panthers outhit the Junior Blues 10 to 4, but couldn’t overcome six stranded baserunners.

“We played some great defense, but they put all their hits together at once,” coach Christy Weve said. “It stinks though because someone mentioned that we hit [Hamilton] better than anyone had all year.”

Gabby Martin (3-for-4) was a thorn in Hamilton’s side. The sophomore second baseman finished the postseason (8-for-12, five extra base hits) with a .666 batting average.

Senior Madi Young hit a triple to open the game and came around to score after a Washburn Rural error. It would be the only run to cross the plate for Derby until the sixth inning. 

After the Panthers batted in the first, an hour-long rain delay commenced before play resumed in the bottom half. Washburn Rural first baseman Olivia Bruno hit her second two-run home run of the tournament to give it a 2-1 lead shortly after. 

Hamilton’s solo home run pushed it to 3-1 before it scored three more off of walks, a hit batter and a fielder’s choice. 

Freshmen Sophia Depew and Morgan Haupt pitched valuable innings in relief (4.1 innings) to keep the game within reach 

“They were awesome and came in and did what we asked them to do,” Weve said. “They took a couple breaths, had some confidence and it’s just a bright future for our pitching staff [with three underclassmen].”

In the sixth, junior Halle Rico and Martin opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Paxton followed the pair with an infield single of her own, scoring Rico and cutting the game to a 6-2 Washburn Rural lead. 

Senior Courtney Cline was walked to load the bases with two outs and Young followed by knocking in two runs on a single. Junior Mariah Wheeler sent a sharp grounder to second allowing Cline to score, but Young was thrown out at home trying to tie the game. 

“I saw Weve saying, ‘go, go, go!’ so I ran as hard as I could,” Young said. “At that time, I guess it wasn’t right for us.” 

Derby was retired in order to end the game in the top of the seventh. The Panthers’ five seniors cap their career with four trips to state and a 74-13 career record. 

“Our girls have fought no matter what,” Young said. “Our team is for each other and I’ve been preaching this season to do it for the person next to you. That’s what we’ve been working on and we got that done.”