Lezlee Westine

Building bipartisan bridges

How CEO of the Personal Care Products Council Lezlee Westine is using her unique experience to bring people together and create change.

In the years since Lezlee Westine (BSBA ’82) graduated from the University of Florida, she has held leadership positions in the tech hub of Silicon Valley to the country’s government seat in Washington, D.C. No matter the industry focus, Westine notes that her degree in marketing has always served her well.

“It’s an invaluable degree,” she said. “Everything in my life has been about marketing.”

From her time as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Liaison at the White House to her role as President and CEO of TechNet, an advocacy leader for the technology industry, and her current role as President and CEO of the Personal Care Products Council, Westine’s marketing skills have served as her foundation to bring people together and create change.

For Westine, uniting people to make a difference has long been her personal and professional passion.

“One of the most important things I learned during my early time in California was about how critical it is to get to know your own unique gift,” she said. “Once you know what that is, then you’ll be so much more successful. For me, that has always been in politics and public policy.”

At the Personal Care Products Council, Westine leads a team that represents 600 companies in the beauty and personal care space and has shaped legislative, regulatory, science, health, environmental and public relations efforts on the largest issues impacting the industry. One of the most recent efforts she’s particularly proud of is the December 2022 passing of the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act, which amends the Food and Drug Administration’s Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to include new provisions for cosmetic products.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt was president the last time any changes were made to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act,” she said. “We were a major advocate for the new principles and updates to the legislation, and I’m incredibly proud of our work that helped make this happen.”

Westine notes that important work in public policy can’t be done without a strong team.

“One of the most important things a CEO can do [for their team] is to create a culture of collaboration,” she said. “For me, that centers around the Golden Rule – treat others how you want to be treated.”

In combination with a CEO who stays laser focused on results, Westine believes that a collaborative team in any sector can accomplish their goals.

“It’s true in government, nonprofits and companies,” she said. “I’ve worked in all three areas, and it’s a universal truth.”

Creating change doesn’t come without its challenges, though. As someone who has worked both for and with the government, Westine has seen this firsthand.

“A lack of bipartisanship and inaction by Congress have been the biggest challenges in my career,” she said. “Washington is a very stimulating place and has plenty of great thought leaders, but I believe that bringing in more business leaders would help the situation.”

At the end of this year, Westine intends to do just that. After 14 years in her role at the Personal Care Products Council, Westine intends to step down so that she can focus on a portfolio of passion projects that center on building bipartisan bridges and cultivating public-private partnerships.

“Business and government have the opportunity to work better together,” she said. “Business is great at doing things quickly, while the government has the ability to scale.”

Westine is excited about the opportunity to help build bridges and spur collaboration through these projects. She believes that her unique experience in working with leaders on both sides of the aisle is a key aspect to bringing change.

“People have a lot more in common than what you might see on the nightly news,” she said. “But we need people who are catalysts to bring people together.”

Westine is currently in talks with various groups to build the grassroots efforts that she hopes will lead to more civil and effective ways to address the country’s biggest challenges. Despite the partisanship challenges she’s faced in her career, Westine believes that it’s possible for opposing sides to work through their differences and make progress on creating a better society for all Americans.  

“I watched a TV program with a Democrat and a Republican having a lovely, civil conversation,” she recalled. “That made my heart jump. I am going to do everything I can to the day that I die to create incentives to bring people together.”

Outside of her professional projects, Westine is focused on educating the next generation of business leaders and policy makers. She serves as a mentor and has taught students as a visiting instructor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is also currently teaching a course on “Engaging the White House” as part of the Washington Campus, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, higher education association which focuses on public affairs and public policy education for MBA and graduate students. The University of Florida is one of 17 members of this exclusive consortium.

Westine believes that one of the most important things she can impart to students is encouragement to follow their passions, just like she did.

“So many students haven’t had people to encourage them to follow their personal interests and to know that someone cares,” she said. “If you have a dream, then do it. I hope that I can be someone they can look to for encouragement because that support is what they need.”