Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands will highlight a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. Find previously published installments of the series here.

They say major crises are when major leaders tower over others. If ever there were a time to prove that in the long-term care and senior living industries, it is during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, operators have Mark Parkinson pressing their case. Already considered perhaps the best leader long-term care has had before the pandemic, he has been out front relentlessly as the voice and face of long-term care, meeting with leaders in Washington, appearing on national media broadcasts and advocating for providers wherever he can. 

Now in his 10th year as the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, the 6-foot-6 Kansas native projects a Lincolnesque figure in numerous ways. A former Midwestern state legislator and governor, the affable debate champion is a unifier who held office as a member of both major political parties.

Before this spring, one of his biggest accomplishments was stitching back together a fractious constituency, convincing major chains that had set up their own alliance to come back into the fold. The number of AHCA and NCAL state affiliates also has grown under his guidance, rising as concerns over how he would adapt to politics on Washington’s big stage faded.

That’s not to say the data wonk has lost the sense of candor that recently led him to declare that skilled nursing providers would deserve any flak they encountered if quality outcomes wavered under the new Patient Driven Payment Model.

Not long after graduating at the top of his University of Kansas School of Law class, he and his wife, Stacy (also a lawyer), built and ran long-term care facilities in Kansas and Missouri, bringing ultimate “street cred” to his current role.

It’s all a part of what helps Parkinson make major strides — both figuratively and literally — every day on the job.