America's biggest privately owned nursing home chain is getting a new president in November.
Cleveland, Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America announced Wednesday that Beecher Hunter is retiring at the end of 2020 after 34 years at the company, including 14 years as company president.
Hunter will be succeeded as president on Nov. 2 by Todd Fletcher, currently vice president of Western Division Operations for Life Care.
Both individuals have long tenures with Life Care, which operates more than 250 elder care facilities in 28 states across the country. Hunter joined the company in 1986 after 20 years with The Cleveland Daily Banner. Fletcher's service began in 1990, coming directly out of college, when he was named executive director of Rimrock Villa Convalescent Hospital in Barstow, California.
Forrest L. Preston, the 87-year-old chairman and CEO of Life Care Centers which he founded four decades, praised Hunter as "a faithful advocate of the highest quality of care" and "a leader in recognizing and praising the work of their caregivers, whom he calls God's chosen angels to deliver His message of love and compassion." Preston noted that on his first day at work on March 3, 1986, Hunter didn't even report to work at the office but instead joined Preston at the airport for a three-day trip to visit facilities in Kansas and Missouri.
Hunter said Fletcher "brings talent and energy to his new assignment," along with "a genuine heart for those he serves and leads."
As vice president of Western Division Operations, Fletcher has had responsibility for 84 skilled nursing facilities in three of Life Care's divisions.
"From his very first day on the job, Todd has shown natural leadership abilities, honed by valuable experience in his relationships with residents and their families, and deep appreciation for the passion and commitment of his co-workers for the mission to which they are called," Preston said.
Fletcher steps into the role of president with extensive knowledge of the company and its philosophy. A 1989 graduate of Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington, with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Fletcher went on to Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, to earn a degree in long-term health care management.
"In 1970, Forrest Preston founded and created the legacy of Life Care Centers of America based on his vision and commitment to serving seniors," Fletcher said. "Mr. Preston established high standards of leadership and a legacy of unmatched courage."
Hunter, who has been with Preston through most of the company's history, is a 1961 graduate of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Lola, moved to Cleveland in 1962, when he accepted a job as news and wire editor of The Banner. He was promoted to editor of the newspaper in 1973.
He is a former president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and the Cleveland Family YMCA and is currently a member of the board of trustees of the Tennessee Aquarium. He has been a member of the board of directors of the Better Business Bureau of Chattanooga since 1983.
"I have had the blessing of two careers – in newspapering and for the past 34 years with Life Care – that I have enjoyed," Hunter said. "There are thousands of associates across the country – certified nursing assistants, nurses, workers in housekeeping, laundry and maintenance, activities directors, administrative leaders – whom I look into their faces and see the earnestness of their desire to serve our Lord by caring for others. I will miss them all, but now I owe Lola and my family more opportunities to travel and explore what else God has in store for us."