An era ends at LeadingAge, while another begins

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

"I bequeath the CEO title to a very able person."

With those words Tuesday, Larry Minnix officially ended his tenure at LeadingAge, an organization he has led for the past decade and a half.

By any standard, incoming CEO Katie Smith Sloan will have some mighty big shoes to fill. For as one of the many people who spoke fondly of Larry noted at a general session tribute, he had that rare ability to get people who shouldn't be working together to work together.

As I listened to Larry's tearful farewell address, it occurred to me that this has been a golden age of sorts for three of the largest organizations in this field.

More than 8,800 people registered for the 2015 LeadingAge meeting in Boston—an all-time record. This comes in the wake of the largest-ever crowd at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care show in Washington. Meanwhile, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living show in San Antonio had one its best-attended shows in a long time.

While these robust numbers reflect improving market conditions, they are also a tribute to the perfectly matched leaders at the helm of each organization.

Larry has taken LeadingAge to unprecedented heights. He has done so with a gentle charm that might appear to mask his deep commitment to our nation's most senior residents.

Down the street at AHCA, Mark Parkinson has been piling up accolades as one of the nation's most influential lobbyists. Rare is the person who has been unimpressed by Mark's quiet charm or sound mind.

For his part, Bob Kramer has grown NIC into the field's preeminent source of data and information. Moreover, the NIC annual meeting offers a dealmaking cornucopia.

These three men are anything but an old boy's club. But they are, unmistakably, men. As the first woman at the top of LeadingAge, Sloan will naturally be judged, and inevitably compared with her predecessor.

My advice is this: let's try to hold off on both counts. Remember, she was not handed this position; she earned it. Sloan will bring her own style, skill and perspective to the job. No, she is not another Larry. And for her own sake, I hope she doesn't try to be one. But I do hope is that she tries to be a first Katie.

Yes, an era ended this week. But a new one also began. To Larry and Katie: all the best.


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