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MacDonald takes helm at Commission on Aging

October 17, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Susan J. MacDonald will take over as executive director of the Washington County Commission on Aging on Monday.

"It's a different environment, but it's the same work I've been doing for years," MacDonald said.

MacDonald, an attorney for seven years, has more than 15 years of experience handling legal and social issues affecting older residents. She spent the last five years as regional counsel with Legal Aid of West Virginia in Martinsburg, W.Va., where she managed 35 of the state's 55 counties. Statewide, the legal aid program serves about 10,000 clients per year, MacDonald said.

"Most of my work has been working with victims of abuse and people who are impoverished, and many of those people have been elderly," MacDonald said.

MacDonald replaces Frederick F. Otto, who retired in September after 15 years as the commission's executive director. Otto, who met with MacDonald briefly before his departure, said he is impressed with her credentials and hopes she will build on his accomplishments.

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"She's realized and purposeful," said Otto, who also says he will make himself available to assist MacDonald with her transition.

MacDonald says she will spend the first few months learning about the commission and how the organization operates, but she expects her biggest challenge will be financial.

"The state of Maryland hasn't had the robust economy it's had at one time," MacDonald said. "I think that maintaining and increasing funding will be my biggest concern."

MacDonald also is the immediate past president of Good Shepherd Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Inc. in Jefferson County, W.Va. MacDonald said the organization is dedicated to helping older and disabled people maintain independent lifestyles.

MacDonald graduated in 1997 from Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, Pa. As a law student, she was recognized by the National Association of Women's Lawyers for her outstanding academic achievement.

After law school, MacDonald was a juvenile court public defender with West Virginia's 23rd Judicial Circuit from 1998 to 2000.

MacDonald served as executive director of the Shenandoah Women's Center Inc. in Martinsburg from 1988 to 1994, and was the director of Montgomery County's senior center in Rockville, Md., from 1984 to 1986.

MacDonald earned a bachelor's degree in music in 1979 from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

MacDonald lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va., with her husband, Randolph, and daughter, Caitlin, who is a senior at St. Maria Goretti High School in Hagerstown.

A native of Commack, N.Y., MacDonald is the oldest of three children and also has a sister who is an attorney.

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