Always eyeing the upside

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Cynthia Morton
Cynthia Morton

In a city full of cynics, Cynthia Morton offers a counterpoint. The Washington veteran—and executive vice president of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care—still brims with enthusiasm when she talks about advocacy and public service. And few things inspire Morton more than helping long-term care professionals find their voice.

“A lobbyist can go to the Hill, but it's a hundred times more powerful when a CNA [certified nursing aide] explains in her own words the barriers she bumps up against,” Morton said. “Nobody is going to speak out for us if we don't do it ourselves.”

Morton was raised in a household where politics was not a major focus. Her father was an engineer and her mother was a music teacher who later became a computer programmer. What they did emphasize to Morton and her two brothers was the importance of education and drive.

Growing up in Virginia, Morton threw herself into school and was active in student government, soccer, swimming and field hockey. Her interest in advocacy was sparked by her high school government teacher. She ultimately earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public administration, setting the stage for bigger things.

Morton discovered long-term care while working as a legislative assistant at the law firm Mezzullo and McCandlish. One of the firm's main clients was the Virginia Health Care Association. Morton represented it at the Virginia General Assembly.

In the late 1990s, Morton joined Virginia's Medicaid agency at a time when it was assuming new responsibilities relating to stricter survey laws. She recalls receiving a phone call from the Virginia Health Department telling her to go shut down a nursing home.

“We were scrambling to find temporary beds, and the families in large part did not want the nursing home to close,” she said. “I learned a lot about how policy and law impact people's lives.”

Morton brought that knowledge to the American Health Care Association (AHCA), where she spent 12 years advancing its advocacy agenda. In her early years there, she successfully put together a coalition to secure $20 billion in state fiscal relief. She went on to help develop AHCA's grassroots advocacy program and build a political action committee that raised and disbursed more than $1.4 million.  

Along the way, Morton earned a reputation for her passion and integrity. “Her word is her bond,” AHCA President and CEO Bruce Yarwood says. “If she promises something, she delivers.”

Morton's enthusiasm extends beyond work to her home life as well. On weekends, she can be found exploring the city's museums with her husband, Jack, and 8-year-old son, Jake. She also loves interior design and is currently renovating an 1890s townhouse on Capitol Hill.

In her new role at NASL, Morton faces the challenge of an uncertain political landscape. Yet, not surprisingly, she approaches it with optimism.

“We could potentially have up to 50 new members of Congress, and each of them is going to have some level of interest in health care,” she said in the days before the election. “I see that as a real opportunity.”

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Resume

1989
Earns bachelor's degree in political science from James Madison University

1989
Becomes legislative assistant at Mezzullo and McCandlish law firm

1993
Takes position as deputy director of Constituent Affairs, Office of the Governor, Virginia

1994
Serves as special assistant to the director, Virginia's Medicaid agency

1999
Joins AHCA as Congressional Affairs representative

2004
Works as senior director, Congressional Affairs, AHCA

2009
Becomes VP of Political Affairs, AHCA

September 2010

Named NASL executive vice president