First Golden LEAF President To Retire

The first president of the foundation formed to distribute money from the settlement of a national tobacco lawsuit says she plans to retire early next year.

Valeria Lee says she plans to retire as president of the Golden LEAF Foundation in March 2008.

Lee who has served as Golden LEAF president since 2000.

State legislators decided in 1999 to direct half the state's $4.6 billion from the Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette makers to Golden LEAF, which assists tobacco-dependent and economically distressed communities in North Carolina.

Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than 580 grants totaling more than $219 million.