Posted by Carrie Condran LaBriola on May 27, 2019
John Dean, who will join the Rotary Club of San Francisco Board on July 1 as Vice President of Public Relations, calls himself “a Bay Area lifer.” Born in Oakland, he grew up in the East Bay and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where he met his wife, Susan, who is also a member of the Club. While Susan finished her nursing degree, John earned a law degree at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, then opened a law office in Oakland where he lived out his dream as a criminal defense attorney. Under the mentorship of several experienced trial attorneys, he was able to get “a lot of very practical experience in state and federal courts in Northern California.”
After 11 years, John found that he was burned out on criminal law and enjoying helping out with the wholesale and retail bakery Susan’s parents owned. At the same time, Susan was finding that life as an operating room nurse was not compatible with a new baby, so John closed his law office and the couple bought the family’s Ahrens Bakery at Van Ness and Jackson in Pacific Heights, which they operated for more than 10 years. As the business grew and expanded to include wholesale contracts with hotel chains, hospitals, schools and colleges, and employee cafeterias in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, John handled the contracts, as well as labor negotiations with five unions. Meanwhile, Susan ran the office and supervised the retail operation and sales representatives, and oversaw the accounting and payroll operations.
When their youngest child went to school in 1997, Susan went back to nursing and John wanted to go back to the law, so they sold the business and “went back to our former professions,” John says. Susan earned an MBA and eventually worked in management positions at Kaiser. After John made a presentation to the San Francisco Central Labor Council, the organization’s leaders joked, “When are you going to get back on our side?” and mentioned that the Airline Pilots’ Association was looking for an attorney. The union’s headquarters are in Washington, DC, but the West Coast office is in San Francisco, where John was hired as staff attorney and handled regulatory cases, and eventually became senior labor relations counsel, negotiating labor agreements. Both he and Susan retired in June 2018. In addition, for the past 12 years, John has taught classes in negotiation and settlement as an adjunct professor at Hastings, as well as teaching continuing education classes on negotiation and ethics for practicing attorneys all across the country.
For the past 15 years, Susan has served as a surgical nurse on medical missions, and John has started accompanying her to Antigua, Guatemala, as cook for the team of 40 doctors and nurses. They were on “seven or eight” missions last year, he says. John also enjoys woodworking, making benches, tables, and chairs from reclaimed redwood. Susan joined the Club in early 2017, and John joined a year later. “We’re both enjoying the service projects and meeting people interested in doing good in the community,” he says, mentioning the Bike Build, Homeless Connect, and Rotary Meadow as favorite volunteer opportunities. They live in San Francisco and have a son who is an attorney in Silicon Valley and a daughter who is an attorney in New York City.
John says he’s looking forward to his service on the Board, crediting Past President Scott Plakun for a “robust communications program compared to other clubs.” He plans to expand the Club’s public and social media presence and is committed to communicating with members “more effectively” and “in the way they prefer.”