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Senior Services welcomes new director

Farrell Fleming, executive director for Senior Services of Island County, takes a short break from his new duties at the Bayview Senior Center. - Spencer Webster
Farrell Fleming, executive director for Senior Services of Island County, takes a short break from his new duties at the Bayview Senior Center.
— image credit: Spencer Webster

BY GAYLE SARAN

South Whidbey Record

A new director has taken the helm for Senior Services of Island County.

The board of directors hired Farrell Fleming to run the nonprofit organization that serves 12,000 senior residents in Island County.

Fleming replaces Margaret Sehovic, who served as interim director for eight months when Jim Self left last year.

Fleming was the executive director of South County Senior Center in Edmonds from 2001 through 2007.

“I am looking forward to working at Senior Services of Island County serving seniors and disabled adults. Senior Services is a strong organization with an effective board and staff,” Fleming said. “It has a proud history that we will build on.”

Senior Services programs include Meals on Wheels, adult day care, providing case management and information, medical transportation, chore volunteers and operating senior centers in Bayview, Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Camano Island. Senior Services of Island County employs about 50 people, has 250 volunteers, and has a $2.5 million annual budget that includes its programs, centers and subsidized housing in Coupeville. His office is in the Bayview Senior Center.

Fleming sees a number of challenges ahead for the organization.

“Meeting the needs of aging baby boomers while still caring for the population in their 80s and 90s, is something all senior organizations are facing,” Fleming said.

“This is a unique time in the aging field. Not only are boomers, who don’t think of themselves as seniors, beginning to retire, but we also have a growing number of people in their 80s and 90s who present a variety of opportunities and challenges,” he said.

“It will take a creative approach to serve the needs and interests of these diverse and growing populations,” Fleming said.

Other priorities include expanding facilities in Bayview and Oak Harbor.

“We do not have adequate space for our services,” he said. “I can see us talking with other organizations like South Whidbey Parks about their project to build a community center.”

Fleming also has a particular interest in grant writing.

“One of my priorities will be to write grants for additional money for Senior Services,” he said.

The new director also sees the need to expand both affordable housing opportunities for seniors and the nutrition program that serves meals at the centers and takes meals to people’s homes.

Fleming has been working with the senior population for 30 years. He has a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Washington and before serving as executive director in Edmonds, he was the executive director of the Stillaguamish Senior Center in Arlington and development director for the Stanwood Senior Center.

He worked in Edmonds for six years and was terminated by an executive committee on the board.

“I had five strong years at Edmonds, but the new executive committee wanted to micromanage the organization. They created a mess.

“I was terminated, but in one week I had three job offers — including this one. We have all had experience with negative boards,” Fleming said.

“I had a great deal of support there from the staff and membership,” he added.

His first career was as a philosophy professor, and he once taught “philosophy of aging” at the University of Washington.

Fleming was also the founding director of the original Creative Retirement Institute, an educational program for seniors in Winnipeg, Manitoba which became the model for Creative Retirement Institutes at various colleges and universities throughout this country.

He has facilitated aging and retirement seminars at universities and for community organizations, as well.

He was born and raised in the New York area, but attended graduate school at the University of Washington.

“I have lived in the Northwest for a number of years. I love it here and have always liked Whidbey Island,” he said.

“It has been both a privilege and a pleasure to serve the retirement age population,” Fleming added.

The Flemings live in South Everett and have one daughter, who lives on Salt Spring Island in the Canadian San Juan islands.

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