Yeshimebet “Yeshi” Abebe was born and raised in Black Hawk County. Born to a mother from Waterloo and a father from Ethiopia, Yeshi was exposed to the richness of a community that embraced inclusivity. With the support of her family, teachers, church and community members, she was taught the value of hard work and the importance of paying it forward.
After graduating from Columbus High School, Yeshi went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University (New York); a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law (Florida); and a Masters in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the United Nations University for Peace (Costa Rica).
Yeshi returned back to Black Hawk County, where she opened her own law practice and served as legal counsel for a non-profit organization. She later joined a preeminent litigation law firm based in Atlanta, and represented shareholders, which included public employee retirement systems, and consumers in securities fraud, derivative, antitrust and corporate governance actions.
In 2009, Yeshi was appointed under the Obama Administration to serve as an appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under Secretary Vilsack, where she was promoted four times during her tenure. While at USDA, she managed the StrikeForce effort aiming to combat persistent poverty in Rural America. She launched StrikeForce from a 3 state pilot program to a 16 state fully operational USDA Departmental Directive, which then expanded to 26 states amassing more than $23 billion in rural investments and adding over a thousand new partnerships with local community based organizations.
Yeshi was promoted to Chief of Staff for Research, Education and Economics, where she managed a $2.9 billion budget across four separate divisions that had more than 5,000 employees. As the Chief of Staff, Yeshi oversaw high priority initiatives, implemented strategic plans and operations processes.
After being promoted to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, she directed offices and staff on operations functions that included IT services, homeland security and emergency coordination, infrastructure modernization, property procurement, and strategic sourcing under a $7.9 billion budget, and that impacted 90,000 employees.
During her USDA tenure, she also served in the Under Secretary’s Office for Rural Development and the Administrator’s Office for Rural Utilities and served as the Southern Regional Coordinator for 15 states in the areas of rural housing and community facilities, rural business; and rural utilities that included water and broadband.
Yeshi worked with the White House Domestic Policy Council, Rural Council, and Office of Science and Technology Policy on rural and agricultural development, agricultural research, and small business issues across the country and internationally.
In 2017, Yeshi and her family returned home to Black Hawk County where she is currently practicing law.