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Q&A with Jim Wingardner

Linden Ponds’ new executive director on coming back to his roots

Created date

September 24th, 2013
Jim Wingardner

Earlier this year, Jim Wingardner assumed the role of executive director of Linden Ponds. The move was a homecoming of sorts for Wingardner, who briefly served as the community’s associate executive director in 2006 before moving to its sister Erickson Living community, Brooksby Village, in Peabody, Mass. Wingardner held the role of executive director at Brooksby for six years before returning to the South Shore to oversee operations at Linden Ponds.

Q: What led you to the South Shore originally?

A: I grew up in New Jersey, but my parents retired to Cape Cod and Marco Island while I was still in college. At that time, I needed to get an internship and landed one in Cape Cod. And I never really left New England.

When I first started at Linden Ponds, I was living in Metro West, working as the executive director of Lasell Village, a continuing care retirement community in Newton, Mass., but I had worked in my previous career for The Flatley Company hotels in Braintree and had lived in Weymouth, where I had an apartment and my first experience on the South Shore. I like the North Shore, too, but I really love the South Shore.

Q: What brought you back to Linden Ponds?

A: I always had interest in Linden Ponds; it’s where I started my career with Erickson Living, and I just felt it would be a good opportunity.

Q: How is Linden Ponds different today?

A: It’s bigger. When I was here originally, we were just starting the second neighborhood and continuing care was not yet open.

Q: How did a career in hotel management lead you to your current role?

A: On the hospitality side, it’s very, very similar. I’ve been able to bring the hospitality flair with me, but you need to learn the health care side. I followed two mentors into the industry, at Fox Hill Village in Westwood, Mass., and Lasell Village. I’ve had some good people surrounding me who are experts in the field, and I just asked a lot of questions so I could learn the business. Same thing at Erickson Living—I tried to work with people who had more expertise in that area than I had.

Q: What were your first weeks like back at Linden Ponds?

A: I made a lot of friends at Brooksby—residents, employees, vendors. I spent a lot of time up there, and I’ll miss them. But the first few weeks at Linden Ponds have been great, connecting with residents and reconnecting with staff. Part of it was like a homecoming and the rest was getting to know the residents as quickly as I can and talking to them about what we can improve. With the staff, it’s making sure we’re doing everything we can for the residents. Linden Ponds has great employees, and the residents are fantastic people and I’m really enjoying my time here.

Q: How are you getting to know the community?

A: I’ve been doing table visits in the restaurants, and I attend any and all resident meetings and subcommittee meetings, and just walk around. We had a reception recently, and about 400-500 people came and we had more of those one-on-one conversations really to get to know people. I have a truly open door policy—any time I’m on the property I will be open to people. I always make myself open and accessible if people need to talk to me, as I argue we all do at Erickson.

I’m also really looking forward to our fall events. The residents are back from their summer homes then and that’s usually the busiest time. When you come to a community that has as many residents as we do and as many employees, I think the first job is helping them get to know me.

Q: What are your goals for the community and have you taken steps toward making any changes?

A: My goals for Linden Ponds really are to just continue to work on the service model, make the community everything that it can be for the residents, continue to control expenses, and make sure that it continues to be a well-run community, which it was when I arrived. Our skilled nursing is running very well. We have experts that manage our ancillary and health care services, and my position is to lead them and help them grow and do well.

So really it’s just the fine tuning and continuing to grow the community and really work on employee engagement and making this community everything that it can be—by far the place of choice on the South Shore.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: My wife Leah and I live in Boxford, Mass., and my 15-year-old twins, David and Rebecca, are high school freshmen, while our oldest son, Josh, just began his first year at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Josh was a dining server for three and a half years at Brooksby, and was also a student scholar. This is a big transition year for all of us.

I also love to play golf and love the beach. The residents have told me they play golf on Tuesdays and they expect me to join. It’s going to be fun.