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Ready to lead—Meet Sharon St. Mary, the new Chair of our Board of Directors

Lisa Foss-OlsonBy Lisa Foss-Olson, Director of Public Relations & Communications, Care Providers of Minnesota
January 12, 2018  |  All members

Sharon St. MaryOn January 1, 2018, Sharon St. Mary, Executive Director for Metro Minnesota, Good Samaritan Society, became the new Chair of Care Providers of Minnesota’s Board of Directors. Sharon has been involved with the Association for many years, serving on numerous committees, task forces, and councils at the state and national level; however, there may be a few who are not familiar with Sharon (yet). The following should help to remedy that—as Sharon answers some questions...unfiltered.

Tell us a little about yourself
I have worked in the senior care profession for over 25 years, and prior to that, I worked in mental health and addictions and with juvenile delinquents. I have been an animal lover all my life, and currently, there are two felines that claim my home as residence (I am mad at one of them though—Schroeder. Good grief…hardly a day goes by that I don’t have to clean up after that cat somewhere in the house! And Sampson (our other cat)—well, he is soon to be 15 and who can be mad at a geriatric cat? Not for long anyway.). 

I am married, with two step-sons and twin grandsons: Shane and Tyler (who, interestingly enough, have different birthdates). I am a passionate native plant gardener and as a consequence, a bee admirer and a newly-avowed rabbit hater! 

Every year, during the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make truffles—this year I made 20 varieties—and then for the two months after Christmas, I eat the leftovers. My favorite is the Zesty Citrus! I recently took up Tai Chi, not as a martial art (which is a little disappointing to me), but rather as a way to combat the strength and balance issues that plague so many of our seniors. This year I am thinking kickboxing!

Why did you want to take on the position as Chair of the Board of Directors?  
Some years ago, I made the personal commitment to become part of the solution, not just a whiny voice in the crowd. It is so easy to become—and stay in the role of—a complainer. It takes infinitely more time and energy to commit oneself to working together, in partnership, to identify solutions and bring them to life. When I was asked if I was willing to step up for election to a role on the Executive Committee, I didn’t hesitate. One, because it was my boss asking me (😊); and two, because I believe passionately in our Association and the mission and vision it brings to those business owners who take on personal risk to provide senior care services and the staff who wear their hearts on their sleeves everyday while caring for those residents and families who have chosen us to help them live their life to the fullest. I see my role as working in collaboration to create the environment where our mission and vision—as an Association—can be realized.

What are some of your prior leadership experiences? 
Well, I was born a bossy pants, of course! Some things are just inherent, and for me, that strategic thinking and future visioning have always been a part of my personality (just ask all the people who cringe every time I ask, “Why?” And to think, I was just ahead of my time on the quality journey—RCA (root cause analysis) baby!! Ask “why” until you can’t ask “why” anymore!). 

My career journey started when I was just 12 years old. I lived in a small town and one of the two doctors in town was a friend of the family, so she first employed my sister and then me as a “gal Friday.” We did everything from grocery shopping, writing lab results in the patient files, re-supplying the exam rooms, filing, doing the bookwork, and I even got to staunch the bleeding of wounds created by someone diving through a plate glass window while the doctor stitched her way through them. Of course, I did not do all that when I was 12. I worked for her from the summer of my 12th birthday to the summer of my 18th birthday, so my jobs increased in complexity with my age. 

Then I started a career working with troubled youth and their families—that led to a career in mental health and addictions with children, adolescents, and adults. I have always been promoted through the ranks in most of the jobs I have had. I learned hard work, perseverance, dedication, and loyalty from my parents, and I bring that to every job I have. I do not expect to have things handed to me and I understand that I will have to work hard for what I achieve. I will work harder and longer than most anybody to get the job done and I am not afraid to take a risk. Along the way, I have made use of mentors and friends who have taught me the value of connections and networking. They have also taught me how to be a good manager and a great leader. The most valuable leadership lesson I have learned is there is no effective leadership journey without companions along the way. A leader creates environment, opportunity, growth, and vision. Most of all, a good leader creates a replacement!

Do you have any concerns about chairing the board? 
Oh, my goodness, yes. There have been so many smart, talented, wonderful people sitting in this chair before me that I could not hope to measure up to the standards they have set. My only hope is that this is not a comparative seat!! 

There is a wonderful team of professionals who work at the Association and I could never have any concerns knowing they are in our corner. There is a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers who show up for the Association when it is needed and when it counts the most.  The committee volunteers, the board volunteers, the volunteers who represent the Association at the national level—I could never have any concerns knowing these good people are in our corner! 

I do have concerns about the increasing calls to regulate our profession; and I have concerns about our ability to unite an ever-growing and widespread number of senior interest groups, who all have different motivations and different missions. But, I know that with our committed staff and committed membership standing with me, no challenge will deter us from our mission. I am a fighter and I do not give up easily. I am here to serve the membership and guide the staff leadership, to ensure we stay on track with our mission and our strategic vision.

What will you find exciting as CPM’s Board Chair?  
I am always excited to learn, and being surrounded by the sum-total of knowledge that sits in that board room is pretty phenomenal—I just hope my head doesn’t explode! Also, I am excited to move strategy and create opportunities for growth. I am always excited to come together with other thought leaders, business owners, friends, and mentors to discuss how we might fulfill our mission, advance our profession, and grow our Association membership.

What motivates you? 
Lately, my motivation has been helping to mold our Association to welcome and embrace the seismic shift that is underway as we begin the transition of leadership in our profession to the next generation. Hence, we have a renewed focus for our Young Leaders Group in 2018, where we are exploring mentorship and networking opportunities. We are talking about how we can better prepare our young leaders for committee and board participation, as well as looking at how we can make our Convention social engagement activities more appealing to the next generation of leaders. It is my desire that we leave our Association in good hands and that we prepare those hands to accept the great honor of carrying this association into the future.

Lisa Foss Olson – 952-851-2483 – 


About Care Providers of Minnesota

Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.

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