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Incoming ALFA chief's priorities include fortifying ties, implementing agenda

December 8, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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James Balda

Strengthening relationships and implementing an ambitious agenda will be the priorities when he assumes the position of president and CEO of the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) on Jan. 15, James Balda tells Long-Term Living.

ALFA is working on a name change and developing a credentialing program as well as professional standards, as interim CEO Maribeth Bersani detailed in a recent exclusive interview, and Balda says his experience will serve ALFA well.

“I’ve got some extensive background in growing membership and also in training programs,” he says. “When I was at America’s Health Insurance Plans [AHIP], I turned around their credentialing program, which is now a significant success for that association. I think I can use that [experience] to help the organization get a credentialing program off the ground.”

Brenda_Bacon_ALFA_chair_Brandywine_CEOCredentialing and professional standards “are important issues that we who are leaders in this industry have talked about for some time, and now, ALFA is taking on the role of leadership on these issues to move us forward,” Brenda Bacon, CEO of Brandywine Senior Living and chairperson of the ALFA Board of Directors, tells Long-Term Living. “There is strong consensus in the industry about the need to have standards to self-regulate, to be more transparent to the public, to communicate our message better and to make sure that the qualifications of our staff and our leadership team is easy to see and has depth.”

At AHIP, Balda was vice president of member services and professional development, but his most recent position was that of senior vice president of innovation and business development for the National Restaurant Association. “In the various roles that I’ve held at the National Restaurant Association, my work has revolved around partnering with our state restaurant association partners, working with them to not only grow their membership but increase the resources that they have to effectively advocate on behalf of the industry at a state and local level,” he said, adding that he has helped create new business development opportunities and non-dues revenue-generating programs.

ALFA works with five state chapters and 30 affiliates, and Balda says he looks forward to  “building a foundation of trust and openness and transparency so that we can collectively work together to move the industry forward.”

Bacon adds: “We have great chapters and affiliates throughout the country. The things that we want to strengthen have to do with making sure we’re all on the same page in terms of different regulatory efforts and state standards and credentials. …I think we probably haven’t done as good of a job as we will do under James’ leadership in helping to communicate those things that we think are important to senior choice in their living situations and the programs and services that our industry can offer.”

Balda’s résumé also includes positions at the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) and the Newspaper Association of America. Through his work with AHIP and HIAA, Balda is very familiar with the healthcare industry, although he says that he sees more similarities between ALFA and the restaurant association than between ALFA and the insurance associations, because of the hospitality and socialization aspects of assisted living “so that seniors can have a rewarding life experience in communities.”

Balda succeeds former ALFA President and CEO Richard Grimes, who retired in June. Bersani, the organization's senior vice president of public policy, has been serving as interim CEO since then.

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