Barbara Matteson is the executive director of the Palms at Ponte Vedra.
Please tell us about your background and what brought you to the Palms.
I hold a master’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. Prior to my relocation to Jacksonville, my family resided in upstate New York, and I had my own practice as a marriage and family therapist. Prior to establishing my private practice, I worked as a director of social services in the nursing home industry. Upon my move to Jacksonville, I knew that I was ready for a change and fortunately, I found that change with Marriott Senior Living, where I became an administrator of an assisted living facility in Orange Park. However, Marriott chose not to continue its venture with senior living. But before they exited the business, I was fortunate enough to work for them and be trained by them. I am always grateful to Marriott for the training, and I had and the opportunity to work for and meet Mr. Bill Marriott.
After Marriott, I had the opportunity to work for other senior living companies based in Jacksonville. the Palms community was especially interesting to me because it was a unique opportunity to lead a new startup assisted living and memory care facility, as well as an opportunity to work for a locally-based company. When I came to the Palms, they were just pouring the foundation for the building. I was very interested in bringing my experiences and knowledge to a new startup venture and to have the opportunity to provide input to every phase of the community. Another key fact of my association with the Palms is that my three granddaughters, Josephine, Amelia, and Madelynn Boyle, live nearby in Sawgrass and encouraged me to explore working at the Palms. They love visiting the Palms and interacting with residents. It is very important to teach our youth the importance of taking care of our seniors. They call the Palms “Grandma’s House.”
What are your primary roles and responsibilities as executive director?
The executive director is responsible for all facets of the operation of both the assisted living and Morningside (our memory care facility). The buck stops with me! I have been extremely fortunate to have a supportive and very experienced management team who works for me. I have five department managers in the areas of maintenance and housekeeping, culinary, marketing and sales, resident services and community business and activities. Our success is directly related to this experienced team that I am fortunate to have. Kay Tober, my marketing and sales director, has 12 years of experience. Director of Culinary Darryl Young and Maintenance Director Gerald Serrano each previously worked for me for over 12 years and came to join me at the Palms. Gwen Wunder has eight years of experience as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) in nursing home and assisted living facilities. Lauren Leddy was a director at a preschool and is now my community business director. Marylee Lewis is our activities director, who came to the Palms from Mayo Hospital.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Caring for your senior parents or your spouse is extremely challenging. The most rewarding part of my job is helping people with that challenge and serving the seniors and their families at the Palms. I like to make them feel that they can trust me to lead the Palms and take care of their precious loved ones. I want to earn their trust and hold their hand through the difficult journey of assisted living and memory care. It is a privilege to serve the seniors and families. Assisted living can be a difficult journey without the trust and guidance from sincere professionals in the business.
What are some of the biggest challenges for the senior health care industry?
The biggest concern in the health care industry today is the cost. To provide the best care, you need to charge accordingly. You need a high quality and experienced staff and a safe building. Also, another challenge is the difficult journey of assisted living and memory care for families. You need to spend a lot of time with each family. Kay Tober is great at listening and counseling families during an inquiry or tour.
What are your goals for the Palms going forward?
My goals for the Palms are to maintain a safe and efficient operation, which we presently have achieved. This encompasses making sure the staff is properly trained and prepared. We are going to invest in our employees, making sure that they have the education and resources they need to keep the Palms at number one. Throughout the year, we have various in-service and educational programs that Palms employees are required to satisfactorily complete. Taking care of our employees and retaining them is the key goal to maintaining our product, which is “care, the best in Jacksonville.”
What do you enjoy most about living on the First Coast?
I am very fortunate that the Palms is located on the First Coast and that my family is here with me. I am able to enjoy our beautiful beaches and run on them to replenish my energy. After a nice morning run, I can go to work with a clear mind, and it helps me to stay healthy to better serve my residents, families and employees.