Profile: A balanced approach -- Margaret "Peggy" Mullan, AAHSA board chair

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One might think that heading a 600-resident not-for-profit continuing care retirement community and actively serving on a slew of legislative and governmental affairs committees on aging would be enough for anyone. Piling any more on the proverbial professional plate would seem like an exercise in futility. But for Peggy Mullan, who in January became chair of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, the new role is a much-welcomed next step in a career that's spanned more than three decades.

A second-generation long-term care administrator, by age 16 she was working in various roles at the Phoenix-based facility her parents owned and operated, Bel Isle Nursing Home. She gained a unique perspective on the underpinnings of quality long-term care.
"At one point or another, I did about every job there was. I filled in wherever and whenever I was needed, so I got to see how all the departments worked and fit together," Mullan recalled. "That experience has helped me realize that if I were hit by a bus coming to work today, everything would essentially go on. Let something happen to the cooks or the laundry staff for a few days, though, and that would have a far greater impact on the residents."
Those who know the self-effacing Mullan would call her anything but replaceable, however. Her passion for not-for-profit senior care, quality and cultural change both within the industry and her own organization – The Beatitudes Campus, a faith-based CCRC sponsored by the United Church of Christ in Phoenix – is both evident and contagious, says Scott Wynn, the company's COO.
"She's an effective CEO and president because she's very knowledgeable and supportive, yet gives [staff] the freedom to grow and try new things," Wynn says.
Amiable and full of encouragement, her permissive management style inspires those around her. Her good humor and down-to-earth demeanor also make her surprisingly approachable. And she drives a Ford when many in her position would drive a luxury car, Wynn adds, noting Mullan isn't above a good practical joke or quick-witted comeback.
"She measures success differently. She's driven, popular and self-assured, and incredibly balanced. She works hard and encourages others to work hard and push toward new goals, but she always manages to [interject] some fun," Wynn said.
As AAHSA chair, Mullan has outlined a few key goals: to advance the association's culture-change initiative, Quality First; to better represent residents by promoting cultural and racial diversity to management and governance positions; and to tap underutilized volunteer power of the elderly.
"Through AAHSA, I'd like to see us find better ways to organize our communities' residents and help them address some of the big public policy issues themselves, with our support," Mullan explained. "Who better to tell the story? It would put a name and a face to issues that had previously been very theoretical."
AAHSA president and CEO Larry Minnix is confident he'll see her goals take shape.
"Her ability to inspire our members is one of her greatest assets. I predict that Peggy will use this strength to help our members continue down the innovative path that is helping them create the future of aging services," Minnix said.
So what inspires Mullan off the clock? For starters, it's her close-knit family, which includes five kids, ages 22 through 29. She pines for hiking and simple, "mindless" chores at their quaint Arizona mountain cabin, and is known to lose herself in quilting or needlepoint. She also enjoys reading inspirational or "murder and mayhem" books.
More than anything, though, Mullan opts for a path, both professionally and personally speaking, that feeds her mind, body and soul.
"We're whole, integrated people, not one-dimensional. It's important to align yourself with organizations that meet your needs on many different levels," she says. Working hard and enjoying life need not be mutually exclusive, she emphasizes. "I think I've found that balance in long-term care and the Beatitudes campus."

1976 -- Named assistant administrator at Bel Isle Nursing Home

1986 -- Becomes administrator at Sun Grove Care Center, Sun City, AZ

1988 -- Named health care administrator/executive director of Beatitudes Campus

1992 -- Earns bachelor's degree in management from University of Phoenix

1996-1999 -- Member of AAHSA Board of Directors

1999 -- Elevated to president and CEO of Beatitudes Campus

2002 -- Earns master's degree in nonprofit management from Regis University