Flathead County continues to see turnover at the department head level as the Agency on Aging director, Lisa Sheppard, recently accepted a job in Missoula as the new CEO of Missoula Aging Services.
“I’m torn about leaving because I love the Flathead, our team here and the people we serve,” Sheppard said. “But I’m so excited to work in Missoula — they’re really on the cutting edge of aging services.”
Since 2013, Sheppard has overseen Flathead County’s Agency on Aging (AOA), a robust department that works with residents age 60 and older, and covers everything from nutrition programs and advocacy work, to in-home support and, until last year, the county’s transit services.
“I basically had two jobs, aging and transit,” Sheppard said. “Personally it was the culmination of years of hard work in the department to position transit to become its own county department.”
Sheppard played a major role in the rebranding of the public transit system from Eagle Transit to Mountain Climber and expanding services during COVID to an on-demand pickup format rather than just operating traditional service routes.
“We used to say we went everywhere people wanted to go, but we just don’t pick them up where they are,” Sheppard said. “On demand is important in a place like this where we’re both really spread out and deal with winter weather challenges. It’s been so satisfying for me and the department to know what great service our community gets now.”
In addition to transit, Sheppard said AOA provides more services now than before the pandemic, with the exception of in-home care. That includes a greatly expanded Meals on Wheels program and social dining opportunities where nearly 100,000 meals were served last year.
In Flathead County, roughly 30% of the population is age 60 or older and it’s a number that continues to rise. Montana is the fifth oldest state in the country.
“The primary reason we exist is to get people the information and services they need to help them avoid or delay institutional care,” Sheppard said. “We’ve come so far in increasing our visibility and making people aware that we’re the go to place to access aging services and that we’re here to advocate for them.”
Sheppard’s new role in Missoula will be similar to her work in Flathead County but on a larger scale, serving both Missoula and Ravalli counties. She is the first new CEO for the nonprofit organization in 33 years.
Carla Dyment, who has spent the last year as the program manager with AOA will replace Sheppard. The Flathead County commissioners approved the hire at their Jan. 18 meeting. Dyment is a former pastor who worked in youth and student ministry until 2017, when she returned to school to earn her Master’s in Business Administration.
“Carla has been lightning fast in her absorption of all things aging and aging services,” Sheppard said. “She has so much experience with people and supporting people’s lives and that’s what we’re all about.”
Sheppard is the fifth county department head to depart in the last year. In 2021, County Administrator Mike Pence, Parks and Recreation Director Jed Fisher and Fairgrounds Manager Mark Campbell retired while the county’s Planning Director Mark Mussman and ImagineIF Library Director Connie Behe resigned last summer, followed by the interim library director four months later.
All positions have been filled, most recently with the hiring of Ashley Cummins as the new director of ImagineIF.
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