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‘The DNA of Erickson Living’

New executive director infuses Cedar Crest with vision and mission

Created date

September 5th, 2014
Lou Varella joined Cedar Crest’s leadership team as executive director in June.
Lou Varella joined Cedar Crest’s leadership team a

Lou Varella’s enthusiasm for his job is palpable. Just spend five minutes with him at Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., where he just became executive director in June, and you’ll feel his excitement and passion for residents, staff, and the worry-free lifestyle Cedar Crest provides. 

Relationships matter

“As the executive team, we have a responsibility to set the tone and relationships in an encouraging and positive way. That’s the DNA of Erickson Living. It has to be alive and well and tangible,” Varella says.

That DNA is the backbone of his vision for the healthy, positive, active lifestyle Cedar Crest provides for more than 2,000 residents and 1,040 employees. 

“The relationships between residents and staff help residents feel encouraged and supported and positive. Those relationships encourage people to get engaged and involved, and that’s what Cedar Crest is all about,” he says. 

As a continuing care retirement community, Cedar Crest provides all levels of care on an amenity-rich campus. From a medical center and pharmacy to restaurants and a bank to a fitness and aquatics center, Cedar Crest has nearly everything one could need under one roof. And it has more than 180 clubs and activities that suit any interest. 

Three steps to success

“I want to encourage people to get involved,” Varella says. And he has a clear plan on how to accomplish that. 

First, he aims to bridge any communication gaps between residents and management. 

Second, he aims to strengthen leadership training among staff. 

Third, “I don’t want to be a figurehead,” he says. “I want to be transparently engaged with the team and with the community.”

That’s why if you spend time on campus, you’re likely to see him in active conversations with residents and staff. And in the few months he’s been at Cedar Crest, residents say they notice his positive influence. 

“I’ve already had some residents say they’ve noticed a more upbeat attitude among staff, and that, in turn, has a positive influence on their lifestyle,” Varella says. “I look forward to working with the entire Cedar Crest team to build on the success they have already demonstrated in service toward all residents.”

25 years of experience

With a clear vision of where he and Cedar Crest are going, he has a successful past in the senior living industry.

Varella has more than 25 years of operations and finance experience. He most recently served as associate executive director at Riderwood, Cedar Crest’s sister community in Silver Spring, Md. He has also worked as executive director of Quincy Village retirement community in Waynesboro, Pa., and three other communities nearby. 

He spent the bulk of his career with Marriott International Senior Living Services, where he developed the first executive director training program (and participated in it).  

“I’m looking to set a strong example for staff through training, development, and leadership focus here at the community,” he says. “With nearly a quarter-century of experience working in the retirement industry, I’ve learned that the relationships forged between staff and those who live here are critical, and that the residents remain the reason we come to work each day.” 

Erickson Living Regional Vice President of Operations Chris Emmett says, “We are very thankful to have such a dedicated, passionate, and knowledgeable leader and teacher in Lou Varella. We all look forward to having him lead Cedar Crest as it continues to deliver the wonderful lifestyle for its residents and remain a great place for staff to come to work.”

Extending work ethic at home

Varella doesn’t just bring his passion for leadership to work, he lives it at home. An avid reader of Christian and leadership books, he says he tries “to set a positive example for my three college-age sons for them to be strong, independent thinkers.”

He’s not all business, though. Varella loves the beach and tries to take some R&R there a couple times a year.