Columbia County's largest retirement community has a new leader.
Richard Kisner took the reins as president and CEO of Brandon Wilde Life Care Community on June 11.
"It has been fabulous," said Kisner, who took over the position June 11. "This community has welcomed me with open arms."
Julian Smith, a longtime Brandon Wilde employee, was the acting president while a search was under way for Kisner, said Rebecca Sylvester, a communications manager for University Health Care System, which operates Brandon Wilde. Kisner replaces longtime Brandon Wilde president and founder Rosie Messer, who retired in 2006.
Sylvester said Smith has resumed his previous position of executive director and has been showing Kisner the ropes and helping him become more familiar with the Brandon Wilde grounds and residents.
Brandon Wilde is a retirement and long term care community owned by University Health Care System. It was named as one of the top 20 retirement communities in the country five times by New Choices Magazine.
Kisner, a health care executive with more than 25 years of progressive management experience in continuing care organizations, came to Brandon Wilde from Honey Hill Care Center in Norwalk, Conn.
Kisner said he and his wife, Lynn, were looking for a change since their son recently graduated and decided to move after spending 17 years in Connecticut. Kisner said he looked at job possibilities as far north as Chicago and New Hampshire and as far south as Florida.
He said it was the unique and strong sense of community at Brandon Wilde, as opposed to more than 55 other communities, that drew him to Evans.
"One of the special attributes of Brandon Wilde is that sense of community and the welcoming that they do for new people coming and new staff members, new residents," Kisner said, adding that the staff and residents threw him and his wife a welcoming reception. "It is just part of the culture here to welcome. I don't know whether that is Southern hospitality or not, but it is just a wonderful experience."
Kisner said he's familiar with the area having vacationed in nearby areas, including Hilton Head, Savannah and Charleston. The Kisners lived a couple of years outside of New Orleans and loved Southern life, he said.
"I love barbecue," Kisner said. "I've been drinking iced tea like crazy because I love it."
Kisner said his first few weeks on the job have been spent looking for a home nearby, moving into his new office and meeting the many friendly Brandon Wilde residents.
"It's been fun. The residents have been very welcoming. They have all introduced themselves to me multiple times," Kisner said. "I know all of their names and I know their faces, but the problem is I can't put them together yet."
Brandon Wilde is home to about 400 residents over the age of 62 from 37 states and six different countries. The facility has 250 staffers and its youngest resident is 67 while its oldest is 99. About a third of residents are married couples.
Brandon Wilde isn't just for retirement living, though, Kisner said. The center's nursing and rehabilitation services are available to the community. Local residents who have major surgery such as a hip or knee replacement can get full nursing and rehabilitation services at Brandon Wilde, before returning to their homes, he said.
"What is special about Brandon Wilde is that we are on the cutting edge of what good communities like this should be," Kisner said. "I think we will continue to grow and continue to look for opportunities to be on the cutting edge and be the kind of life care community that sets the model for the country."
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