Editor's Desk: The right person to follow in Yarwood's footsteps?

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James M. Berklan, Editor
James M. Berklan, Editor
As soon as I heard that Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, was retiring, I knew two things: The group was going to have a tough time finding someone of his caliber, and it would spend whatever time it needed to get the job done right.

Hal Daub, who preceded Yarwood, was a one-year flop, and an expensive one, too. That's why Yarwood's announced successor, current Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, is probably getting more scrutiny than usual by friends and observers of AHCA.

A quick look says this might be just the guy to give AHCA, the largest long-term care association in the country, a bright future in the post-Yarwood years.

First of all, he's one of you: a developer and operator of long-term care communities. That puts him head-and-shoulders above at least the two most recent Yarwood predecessors.

And while he might not be a veteran Washington schmoozer — yet — it might not take him long to become one.
Called both personable and approachable, he is known to write his own speeches, when he uses prepared remarks at all, that is. In line to at least quadruple or quintuple his governor's salary of $110,000, he isn't necessarily taking the AHCA job for its hefty paycheck. He's believed to be a multimillionaire already.

It's clear the lanky, 53-year-old left-hander knows how to get things done. He graduated first in his University of Kansas law class (and married a classmate). He served in both the Kansas House and Senate as a Republican, and he went on to chair the state Republican Party.

But in 2006, he became a Democrat when Kathleen Sebelius asked him to be her lieutenant governor during a re-election bid. He then ascended to the post of governor when she became head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year.

Despite declaring he would not run for the governor's office this year, he nonetheless managed to balance the budget, thanks largely to a 1% statewide sales tax increase he proposed. He also has successfully implemented a ban on smoking in public places and a nursing home bed tax increase, among other accomplishments.

A father of a high-schooler and two older children, he's described as a deep thinker, someone you might never stump on policy issues. We should all find out that, and more, soon enough.