Cynthia Banks’ New, No Take Back Retirement

Cynthia Banks
  Cynthia Banks

Way back during what seems like decades ago but was only 2019 the ASA Board of Directors called Cynthia Banks out of retirement and asked her to take the helm of the organization as Interim President and CEO. She accepted, proving right away that some people can maintain grace under the most incredible of pressures.

Then in March 2020 when Peter Kaldes was named President and CEO, he wisely begged her to stay on for another year to serve as Chief of Staff, to use her extensive HR experience to smooth what could have been a rough transition for ASA staff, board and members, and she agreed, much to the delight of all involved.

Previous to ASA and her first retirement, Cynthia had served as Director of Los Angeles County’s Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, where she oversaw the Area Agency on Aging, the second largest jurisdiction of older adults in the nation, as well as L.A. County’s Adult Protective Services, among other safety net programs. She joined ASA’s staff with extensive national and local Board experience, including on ASA’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee, the Board of Directors for the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and as Chair of the Board of California’s Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Now Cynthia really is retiring, returning to traveling with her husband and doting on her grandchildren from their base in North Carolina. ASA will miss her calming, cool and collected presence, but we wish her the very best in her next phase of what we’re certain will be a busy and fruitful life well spent.

ASA staff weighed in on what they’ll miss most about Cynthia, and their strikingly similar responses demonstrated Cynthia’s steadiness:

Peter Kaldes said he’ll miss her “no drama professionalism,” and that the two of them first struck up a friendship like this: “After my final long interview with the ASA board, which was the culmination of a multi-month process that Cynthia led, I was exhausted. Cynthia  walked me out of the meeting room, and I could tell on her face that she knew I was exhausted. “So, I asked for a hug. Somehow, she created a safe place for the future ASA CEO to hug the interim CEO! I’ll never forget that moment of humanity.”

ASA Board Chair Michael Adams held the long view of Cynthia’s tenure with ASA: “I appreciate Cynthia so, so much because throughout the years she has stepped up to the plate for ASA over and over again, bringing her immense talents to ASA role after ASA role.  Whether it was as ASA Board member, or Chair of Strategic Planning, or interim CEO, or Chief of Staff, Cynthia has always given it her all and done a stellar job.  She leaves behind huge shoes to fill!”

Former ASA Board Chair Bob Blancato described Cynthia as a woman with “character, competence and class,” and had this to say about working with her: “I appreciate Cynthia for her dedication and commitment to everything she has done in her professional life. When she became Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee after me she was kind enough to ask me for advice and counsel. My advice proved a little controversial, but in the end, she made it all work out.”

ASA COO Rob Lowe said that Cynthia “has been the Winston Wolf [Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction] of ASA. Things were not going well in every respect when she was initially asked by the Board to become our interim CEO, and the pandemic year-plus only extended the nature of the emergency circumstance throughout which she has continued to provide leadership and resourcefulness to ASA in a calm, professional and matter-of-fact matter. Now she is poised to enjoy the metaphorical equivalent of riding off in a beautiful car with the cute date to a lovely breakfast and go on to really enjoy her post-career phase of life with family and friends. So, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the film, ‘It was a pleasure watchin’ you work.’ ”

“She’s powerful, sincere and a leader.”

Cynthia’s calm demeanor and well-balanced personality was much in evidence in staff notes.

From Cindy Morris, VP, Development and Community Engagement: “So here is the thing about Cynthia, just when you think that you have a real problem … I mean a really big problem … and you go to Cynthia and you know the world is falling. She just puts it in perspective. And then the world stops falling and it’s over. It’s not that she fixes the problem. It’s that she helps you see the perspective that it fits into. And that’s the thing I most value learning from her.”

Betsy Dorsett, Manager, Community Engagement, remarked on Cynthia’s calming nature and her “incredibly effective way of sharing her opinion in a manner that makes people listen. Which is good, because she’s almost always right.”

Program Manager Keith Kuo kept his description short and impactful:   “I have one word for Cynthia: CALM.” 

VP of Programs & Thought Leadership Leanne Clark-Shirley said, “I appreciate Cynthia’s calm approach to problem-solving, her sincere interest and concern in our well-being, and, most of all, I appreciate her laugh! She’s powerful, sincere and a leader.”

Editorial Director Alison Biggar says she felt an immediate sense of relief when Cynthia came on board: “Her professionalism was so clear from the get go, but it reaches well beyond business, as Cynthia pretty much embodies the word ‘class.’ She’s a rare combination of capable, unflappable, productive, delightful, and yes, sweet. Cynthia is an incredible role model and I feel lucky for the short time I was able to spend working with her. I, too, will miss her laugh, her mega-watt smile and her ever-changing hairstyles.”

Other staffers also noted the mark she made as a leader and a mentor.

From Membership Engagement Manager Jen Rivera: “I have enjoyed the opportunity of working with Cynthia these past six months. She has been such a great example of a leader, and I have learned from watching her work that genuine kindness comes first, no matter the situation. I wish Cynthia and I could have worked together longer, but I am excited about her new chapter.”

ASA Program Coordinator Patricia Morazan seconded that impression of Cynthia: “I appreciate her making me feel heard and appreciated as an employee and a person. She made me come out of my comfort zone and was very supportive. I am going really miss her. She is honest, supportive and caring.”

Adi Goldstein, Manager, Development, summed up Cynthia in three words: “Kind, considerate and sweet.”

Elizabeth Gould, the co-director of the National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center, who has often worked with Cynthia on projects, weighed in as well, saying: “She is incredibly responsive and supportive. As Chair of [the Constituent Group] HAN, Council members always have questions and she responds to my queries very quickly. Usually the same day. She is diplomatic, patient and confident, and I will miss working with Cynthia. I wish her the very best in her retirement. “