Profile: Steve Fleming
Steve Fleming, Chairman-Elect, LeadingAge
While Steve Fleming refers to it as “a hobby that went out of control,” he has no doubt that being a college football official has taught him great lessons.
“It built up my confidence,” he says. A head linesman, he officiated all over the country, traveling 16 weekends a year. Highlights included four bowl games and two conference championships.
Now, due to being the chairman-elect for LeadingAge, Fleming is “retired.” But he is still a devout football fan, holding season tickets to Appalachian State and attending University of North Carolina games.
Growing up in Mt. Airy, NC (believed to be Andy Griffith's basis for his show's fictional town of Mayberry), Fleming attended UNC-Chapel Hill, where some friends called him “Opie.”
Fleming's father owned a fast food restaurant and his mother was a loan officer. He grew up “modestly” with sisters 12 and eight years older, and became the first person in his family to go to college. Originally drawn to medicine and hospital administration, he says he was influenced by moving his grandmother into a skilled care facility.
He became an assistant administrator at Friends Home in Greensboro in 1986, and before he was 30, he had opened and begun work as executive director at nearby Friends Home West.
Fleming worked days while he finished his master's in business administration at night, marrying his hometown sweetheart, Anne, in 1987. Their daughters are Brooke, 24, a congressional aide, and Elizabeth, 20, a junior at Appalachian State.
By the time Elizabeth was born, the family had relocated to New England due to Fleming's position as executive director at Kendal at Hanover in New Hampshire. But when his mother became terminally ill, they moved back to North Carolina, where he began work at The Presbyterian Homes in Jamestown, NC.
“We returned in late '97 and she passed away in 1998,” he recalls of his mother. “I definitely don't regret getting to spend more time with her.” His father, 92, now lives an hour away.
After Fleming, 53, became president and CEO of The WellSpring Group in Greensboro in 2000, he was recruited to be on the state LeadingAge board and then served as chairman. His ongoing involvement with LeadingAge is “a way to give back,” he says. “To whom much is given much is expected in return.”
As chair-elect, Fleming “brings enthusiasm,” says LeadingAge CEO Katie Smith Sloan.
“He's very engaged in member engagement and advocacy,” she says. “And he's a lot of fun.”
One of Fleming's attributes is that “he thinks differently than most of the rest of us,” says LeadingAge North Carolina President and CEO Tom Akins.
“Steve does a great job of staying in the future,” Akins adds, noting that his friend reads “more than anyone I know.”
“Wayne Gretzky's dad used to say his son wasn't a great hockey player because he skated not to where the puck was, but to where the puck was going to be. Steve is always skating to where the puck is going to be,” Akins adds.
In his spare time, Fleming enjoys golf, a bird or turkey hunt, and fishing. Sometimes he reflects on how much “Opie” has experienced since living in Mt. Airy.
“In college, I was [University of North Carolina] Coach Roy Williams' basketball manager, and served as a manager and statistician when Michael Jordan was there,” he says. “I pinch myself for some of the things I've been able to do. Sometimes my life has been like Forrest Gump.”