For most of her college career, Katrina Lindsey didn’t have law school on her radar. It had taken enough convincing just to get her to finish her bachelor’s degree.
“At the end of my first year of community college, I had enough credits to get my associate’s degree, so I told my mom I was done,” says Lindsey. “My mother, who earned a dual degree in marketing and business, was probably shaking inside as I told her this. She basically made me promise that I would go back someday.”
She made good on that promise by studying communications at Florida State University. After graduation, Lindsey was shocked to receive an offer for a full-time advertising job that would pay less than her part-time bartending gig at Chili’s, the casual restaurant chain where she had been working while attending school. One of her professors suggested that she instead apply to law school—and kept reminding her about it until she finally did.
At Stetson University, which she attended on a scholarship, Lindsey fell in love with both the man who would become her husband and the law itself. Since then, she has remained open to going down unexpected paths, including the one that led her from Florida to Ankeny, Iowa, and to her current role as chief legal officer (CLO) at Casey’s General Stores. “If you had told me that my dream job would be working for a convenience store that is the fifth-largest pizza chain in the nation, I would have said there’s no way,” she says. “But this is literally my dream job.”
Part of what makes her latest role the perfect fit for Lindsey is that it allows her to leverage the full spectrum of her experience. Before joining Casey’s, she honed her legal skills in private practice and through varied in-house roles at Walt Disney World, Darden Restaurants, and Office Depot—each a major player in its respective industry, not to mention a tremendous learning environment.
By the time she received a recruiter call about an opening at Casey’s, Lindsey had long known that she wanted to become a CLO. That aspiration motivated her to consider the Casey’s role, despite how distant, both figuratively and geographically, it may have seemed from her expectations for her next step. “I had lived in Florida my entire adult life. I had never lived in snow, and I had never driven in snow. I came up to Casey’s, and it literally snowed the day I was supposed to interview,” she says with a laugh.
But Lindsey made it to her interview and soon made that snowy place—and Casey’s—her home. She then turned her attention to delving into the business and worked to cultivate strong relationships throughout the organization. “A big part of it is being interested in what other people are doing and what’s going on with them,” she says of relationship-building. “It takes me a long time to get to my office in the morning because I drop by everyone’s workstation to say good morning.”
That strategy, which she learned from a leader at Darden, gives Lindsey a chance to interact with her team members in the spaces where they feel most comfortable. As a result, she finds herself in a better position to ensure that they have the resources they need to grow and thrive as they support the business.
When it comes to the business itself, Lindsey has been able to draw on the restaurant and retail expertise that she acquired at Darden and Office Depot, respectively, but she has also discovered elements that are unique to Casey’s. “From the outside, Casey’s looks deceptively simple, but then you realize that we run a fuel business, a grocery store, and a quick-service restaurant out of the same location,” she says. “I’m in awe of our store managers because they don’t just run three businesses out of that one location; they run three businesses while keeping team members and our guests happy.”
Store-level operations are never far from Lindsey’s mind amid her day-to-day efforts overseeing legal, compliance, government relations, and food safety matters. She believes that all those happy team members and guests—many of whom hail from cities with fewer than five thousand residents—are what make Casey’s so special. “There’s a love for Casey’s that I think is more indicative of a smaller company than a Fortune 300 company,” she says.
Reflecting on her career up to this point, Lindsey herself couldn’t be happier with her decisions. As she continues her quest to leave Casey’s even better than she found it, she encourages aspiring attorneys to be bold enough to chart nontraditional courses of their own.
“Sometimes, you have to be open to the opportunity that you need, even if it doesn’t look like the opportunity that you think you want,” Lindsey emphasizes. “If I had restricted myself to going after opportunities that looked the way I wanted, I would have missed out on working for a fantastic company, with the best boss and the best peers I’ve had in my career, and with a team that is absolutely incredible.”