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Former naval officer takes leadership skills to Riderwood

Mickey Thaxton says service is at the heart of both organizations

Created date

May 5th, 2017
New Associate Executive Director Mickey Thaxton brings more than two decades of experience with the U.S. Navy to Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md.

New Associate Executive Director Mickey Thaxton brings more than two decades of experience with the U.S. Navy to Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md.

The newest member of Riderwood’s executive leadership team is Michael (Mickey) Thaxton, who became the community’s second associate executive director last August. He comes to Riderwood from the U.S. Navy, where he has served for many years. It’s a big change, of course, but Thaxton says Erickson Living and the Navy actually have some big similarities too.

“True, there is a large difference between the two organizations. However, at their core, both are people-centered organizations with clearly defined missions of service,” Thaxton says. “The similarities are much greater than the differences.”

To lead is to follow

Thaxton grew up in Connecticut, where his father was a naval officer and submarine captain. He followed in his dad’s footsteps and attended the Naval Academy, where he was classmates with Riderwood’s former executive director, Chip Warner. After graduating in 1992, Thaxton served as a surface warfare officer for a decade and was stationed in Japan, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland. 

In 2001, he left active duty and entered the Navy Reserve. He earned a master’s degree in history from Villanova University and later taught history, ethics, and leadership at the Naval Academy. 

He worked for a short time for a Virginia management consulting firm but discovered he missed the “larger purpose and sense of service” that he enjoyed during his naval career—which he has found once again at Riderwood.

Thaxton joins Executive Director Gary Hibbs and fellow Associate Executive Director Wendy Ferris on the executive leadership team. As an associate executive director, Thaxton has a big hand in facilitating Riderwood’s day-to-day operations. He works with residents and staff to develop an effective community communications strategy, and he collaborates with Riderwood’s general services team so he can become an effective resource and advocate for that department. 

Thaxton’s time in the Navy helped him to develop his leadership skills. As he settles into his role as associate executive director, Thaxton says he is developing a thorough understanding of how Riderwood functions, and he aspires to ultimately take on an even greater leadership role as an executive director. 

“My leadership philosophy is fairly simple, and it’s one I learned in my first year at the Naval Academy,” he explains. “To be a leader, you must know what it is to follow. To follow, you must humble yourself and realize that very few things can be achieved on your own. Most everything of significance requires teamwork and the willingness to rely on others.”

‘We all matter’

What Thaxton enjoys most about working at Riderwood are the daily opportunities he has to serve both residents and fellow staff members. When he was young, Thaxton’s father’s motto was: “We matter, and all others matter.” Thaxton says he carries those simple words of wisdom with him and applies them to his work at Riderwood.

“Those who call Riderwood home have seen so much, done so much, and have had so many life experiences, and it’s important that my interactions with them are honest, respectful, and caring,” Thaxton says.

To that end, Thaxton makes an effort to get as much face time as he can with residents. 

“I try to make myself available, whether that be with an open office door, by taking the time to stop and talk to residents as I make my way around campus. Or if I feel I’ve been behind my desk too long, to get out the door and see who I encounter in the hallways, on the pathways, or elsewhere,” he says. 

In the months since he took his post at Riderwood, Thaxton says he’s had many memorable experiences. While he’s enjoyed the big events like the annual gala and the opening of the community’s expanded assisted living apartments, seemingly “ordinary” encounters have made the biggest impression: “Being invited to share a meal with residents, attending services of remembrance to honor past residents, serving Thanksgiving lunch and dinner to staff, or just chatting with people as they move through their day.”

Thaxton lives in Annapolis, Md., with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys riding and racing bicycles, something he used to enjoy in high school and picked back up as an adult. 

“In my first year of teaching at the Naval Academy, a student of mine asked if I’d be interested in being the faculty representative for the cycling team,” he says. “That got me back on the bike, and I got back to racing soon thereafter.”

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