Senior living operator Country Meadows Retirement Communities has named Meredith Mills as the company’s new top leader.
Mills succeeds Micahel Leader, who led the Hershey, Pennsylvania-based company for more than 30 years and is transitioning to the role of executive chairman.
Mills is Leader’s niece and the granddaughter of Pennsylvania Governor George Leader and Mary Jane Leader, who were the founders of Country Meadows. As CEO, she represents the third generation of her family to take the leadership role.
Country Meadows has a portfolio of 11 senior living communities that it owns and operates; 10 of which are in Pennsylvania, with another in Frederick Maryland.
As president and CEO, Mills said she will deepen the company’s relationship with its staff and look to capitalize on opportunities for innovations with public payment sources such as Medicare.
“Being a young female leader, I am closer in age and life experience to a lot of our frontline co-workers,” Mills told Senior Housing News. “And I feel very passionate about reinvesting in them.”
Benefits that Country Meadows has implemented or is looking into include childcare, fertility and family planning. And, like many in the industry, the company also bumped pay in the past year – 10% across the board, according to Mills.
Mills began her career with Philadelphia-based clothing and lifestyle brand Urban Outfitters before transitioning to the family business as marketing director in 2011.
Mills said that during her time at Country Meadows, she realized she needed to work at the community level before she could realize her corporate ambitions. So, she assumed the role of executive director of the company’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania, community from 2014 to 2016.
“I found out from that experience, both running a community as an executive director and [in marketing roles] that we really have three customers: the resident, the family member and the co-worker,” Mills said.
For Mills, working at the community level shed a light on “the type of co-workers we are leading and the type of support they need in their personal lives.”
“When you’re helping a co-worker try to find an apartment on Craigslist… because they’ve been sleeping in their car with their young children for the last three nights, yet still coming to work and caring for residents, that hits you in a different way,” she said.
She takes over at a time when broader economic trends have business tightening their belts and even cutting staff but at a time when Country Meadows is healthy.
Country Meadows is still looking to completely recover occupancy lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, expense control has matched occupancy levels. And Mills sees an end to agency-sourced labor in 2023.
In addition to eliminating agency labor usage, Mills is also seeking to further embed the company in the health care continuum. That means potentially providing resources for local or regional insurance companies as an alternative to skilled care where possible.
“I really geek out on Medicare innovation and value-based care practices,” Mills said. “I anticipate that because of our strong clinical quality and clinical investments, you’ll see more opportunities to look at our level of care as a solution in that space.”