Marion hires new Council on Aging director

Jan 8, 2018

The Council on Aging has its new director. Karen Gregory, who has been acting director since former director Heather Sylvia left in October, was named the director by the Board of Selectmen on Monday morning.

Gregory interviewed with the board, where she touted the experience she has gained as activities director. She had formerly been in the corporate world, but was feeling unfulfilled, so she quit her job and applied for the activities assistant position at New Horizons in Marlborough, where she eventually assumed the director position.

“I had the privilege of being the activities director at a senior living center, and I loved it,” she said. “I took a break when I had children, but I went back. I missed working with the seniors.”

Gregory has been in Marion for three years, where she’s been instrumental in building the programs at the Council on Aging.

“I started Memory Café, which has been really successful,” she said. “We made it our own by meeting every week, and we’ve built connections between participants that exceed just the Wednesdays, so it’s been amazing to be a part of.”

One area of programming that selectmen were particularly interested in was getting more senior males involved in programming at the Council on Aging.

“I started to talk to [Police Chief] John Garcia about coming and hosting coffee with the chief, thinking it might bring in the male population,” she said. “We’ve also been talking about once a month having someone currently serving [in the military] come in and host a breakfast with retired military personnel.”

As interim director for the past three months, Gregory said she was in charge of the budget.

“I just completed the budget, and I felt very confident working on it,” she said. “I’ve been in charge of a staff before and budgeted accordingly.”

After Gregory’s interview, Dawson gave the selectmen the option to give the position to her or to continue looking. Their minds were made up.

“I personally think [Gregory] will be excellent,” Chair Jody Dickerson said. “She’s done a great job in the last three months. I can’t say enough about the woman.”

Dawson agreed, adding she had gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“Usually when you pull someone into the interim position you get someone who minds the store, but she goes way beyond that,” he said. “She’s been expanding programs, and the seniors love her.”

The selectmen agreed, with Dickerson adding the seniors wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t choose Gregory.

“I think there’d be a mutiny,” he said. “They’d be coming in with canes and walkers coming after us.”

The selectmen were originally going to interview two final candidates, but one withdrew her application late on Friday afternoon.

“The hour was late, it wouldn’t have been fair to cancel,” Town Administrator Paul Dawson said.