LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan (center) with incoming Board Chair Mike King (left) and outgoing Board Chair Carol Silver Elliot (right)

ATLANTA — Mike King, who has led diversity and equity efforts as president and CEO of Volunteers of America, plans to pursue similar priorities during his two years as chairman of the LeadingAge board of directors.

King’s appointment, effective in January, was announced Tuesday at the 2021 LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo. He will replace outgoing chairwoman Carol Silver Elliott, 

“We’re in the love business,” King said after he was officially introduced during the organization’s annual business meeting. “We’ve seen it over the past two years: You risked your own lives to continue serving at a time when you were totally exhasuted. You saved lives. It was your love for the people you’re serving. Your love for the people you serve with.” 

King has served on the LeadingAge board since 2015. As chairman, he will have more influence on how the organization implements its strategic plan for 2021-2023. His selection as chairman was announced just before the day’s keynote address on Hope, delivered by racial justice advocate and author Glenn Harris.

King’s speech was a warm, sometimes humorous hello to members, during which the Texan quoted both country music singer Randy Travis and actor Matthew McConaughey’s character from the movie “Dazed and Confused.”

In a private interview with McKnight’s Long-Term Care News after the meeting, King said he is focused on encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion efforts nationwide. 

Volunteers of America operates 400 healthcare facilities and provides PACE programs, affordable housing and other supports for those with disabilities, as well as for prison reentry populations and individuals with substance abuse disorders.

King said his organization spearheaded a top-down DEI campaign over the last four years to make its national board, affiliate boards and executive leadership team more reflective of the people they serve. About 45% of the national board now includes individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups.

“I think the DEI journey is one of the most important we’ve ever taken,” King told McKnight’s

He believes similar efforts to affect change and make the industry more welcoming to a range of people is one critical way to address labor shortages and get people interested in aging services careers.

“We faced all the same challenges and obstacles as everyone has faced in this last year,” he said. “Our staff in these facilities are exhausted. They have given everything they have to give to us, to their clients and customers, this past year. We’ve faced the same challenges in workforce that others face, and my hope is that our work in DEI is going to be part of our solution, frankly, to identify talent, create equity within our own culture and, at the same time, provide new opportunities.”

King brings more than 40 years of top-level leadership experience in the charitable sector to the role, the last 11 as national head of VOA, a 125-year-old human service nonprofit with about 16,000 employees. His advocacy on Capitol Hill has focused on the preservation of federal funding and other resources that support vulnerable populations, and King said he also wants to emphasize efforts to boost state Medicaid funding efforts over the next two years. 

“Mike’s understanding of the aging services sector and of our mission-driven members’ needs is deep and broad,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a statement formally announcing King’s appointment. “That knowledge will be valuable as we work to address COVID-related challenges and also make progress on initiatives to ensure a bright future.”

About 4,000 providers are attending the convention, representing about two-thirds of the expected crowd in a non-COVID year. The event concludes Wednesday.