Minnix on leaving: Nonprofits will continue to lead the way

Larry Minnix will retire by the end of 2015
Larry Minnix will retire by the end of 2015

In this exclusive interview with McKnight's Editorial Director John O'Connor, LeadingAge CEO and President Larry Minnix, 67, shares his thoughts on his upcoming retirement, which he announced late Thursday. 

Why do you feel this is the right time to retire?

Any organization needs a change in leadership from time to time. Our organization will be working with a new administration next year. I was able to join the organization [in 2000] with a new White House, and it is when a lot of real work can get done, especially when it comes to formulating policy and building relationships. The next leader at LeadingAge deserves that same opportunity.

On a personal note, my wife Kathleen and I have a new grandchild we're hoping to spend a lot of time with. We'd also like to pursue some deferred dreams while time and good health allow us to do so. 

How has LeadingAge evolved in the past decade and a half?

Two things stand out. One is that we have been able to put big ideas on the table. A second is our brand change from AAHSA to LeadingAge [in 2011]. I feel that we are still on the front end of this shift. 

How has the work that your members do changed?

Our members are moving away from largely delivering institutional services to extending what they do beyond the walls. They have had to get smarter about how they do business. That includes things like planning, operations, marketing and so on, without sacrificing core values.

They are certainly moving away from the traditional silos and focusing more on delivering community-wide services. They are also moving away from reimbursement-based strategies, to dealing with managed care and other payment sources.

They are now on the front end of helping society think about what aging and aging services are all about.

How do you see the role of nonprofits changing in the years ahead?

Nonprofits will continue to lead the way when it comes to service innovation. They will be called on to be more innovative, and to give our society solutions to aging-related problems. We are the crucibles of innovation.

What has been the most gratifying part of the job for you?

I have the best job in aging services. I would say two things stand out. One is the work of helping our members. That has been unbelievably satisfying, both personally and professionally. This is very fulfilling work.

The other is that occasionally it's fun to get into a good fight.

What has been the most challenging?

There have been times when things have not been happening fast enough to suit me. Getting people to change fast enough -— whether they are our members or policy makers — can be tough. But when I look back on all the things we have been able to change, the list is impressive. 

How would you like to be remembered?

I hope our members know that I admire their work, love them, and tried to do everything I could to help them.

Any advice for the next guy or gal?

Stay in touch with people, and keep your ear to the ground in Washington. Also, don't be afraid to lead.

And I'd also tell them to read McKnight's religiously (laughs).

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McKnight's asked industry leaders about Minnix's retirement. Here's what they are saying:

“My first reaction was that my heart sank a little bit. It's the end of an era. But then I realized he leaves such a great legacy. When I think of Larry, I think of three words: Fearless, focused and friendly. He was fearless in going up against the norms of, ‘This can't be done.' He was focused in his rock-solid faith. He was friendly in that he was a visionary who could take people to new places. I believe he didn't want to hang on too long, and he wanted to go out on a high.”

— Advancing Excellence Executive Director Doug Pace

“For the past 15 years, Larry Minnix has been a tireless advocate for the values and practices of the nonprofit long-term care community. If the true measure of leaders is in the enduring legacy of the organization they leave behind, in Larry's case, he has much to be proud of: He has steered LeadingAge through some of the most challenging times in the history of our sector. LeadingAge is immeasurably stronger for his contributions, and is well-prepared for its next era. I will miss his clarity of vision, his enthusiastic advocacy, and, perhaps above all, his unique sense of humor.”

— AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine Executive Director Christopher Laxton, CAE

“Larry has been a true champion of our profession. Every time I interacted with him, that drive and determination were front and center — not only on behalf of the provider, but most importantly, the patients and residents our two associations serve.  His leadership and wisdom will be missed.”

-American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson

"He has been a great champion for the Advancing Excellence Campaign since 2006, supporting the QIOs' work with nursing homes and across the continuum of care. Coming from Atlanta (Wesley Woods) and Aging Services (now LeadingAge Georgia), he set the stage for partnerships and working with the QIO when nursing homes were first recruited.  He has been passionate about convening leaders in reducing readmissions.”

— Alliant Quality Chief Medical Officer and American Health Quality Association Past President Adrienne Mims, M.D., MPH

"With Larry's leadership over the past 15 years, LeadingAge has grown into a strong force in aging services. While we are all very sad to see our friend and CEO retire, we are gearing up, not down, this year. We remain singularly focused on achieving our ever-important mission.”

— LeadingAge COO Katie Smith Sloan

"Those of us who work in the field of aging and long-term care owe Larry a debt of gratitude for the years of leadership he has provided advancing better care for older adults. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

— SCAN Foundation President and CEO Bruce Chernof, M.D.

Click on the download above [under the headline] to see the November 2000 McKnight's article (and photo) about Minnix's appointment. A typed transcript of the full article can be seen here. 

— Elizabeth Leis Newman and Kathryn Fallucco contributed to this article.