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New state aging director was inspired by grandmother in Sumter

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 3/17/20

She may be working at a different place with a different title, but she has the same goals and passion in providing essential services and love for South Carolina's seniors.

Connie Munn, former health and human services director at the …

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New state aging director was inspired by grandmother in Sumter

Posted

She may be working at a different place with a different title, but she has the same goals and passion in providing essential services and love for South Carolina's seniors.

Connie Munn, former health and human services director at the Santee-Lynches Regional Council of Governments in Sumter, was promoted to a state-level position as South Carolina's new director for the Department of Aging.

Munn joined the department in November 2019 as a deputy director, and she was nominated by her peers to take on the leadership position in December 2019.

"When this position appointment came up, several of my peers asked me if they could put my name in the hat," Munn said.

At first, she said, she was unsure about the position, but she was proud to be nominated.

Munn was approved into the position by the state Senate and Gov. Henry McMaster on Jan. 22, and she said she has been trying to make the transition as easy as possible for her staff members and the state's seniors.

"What I've been doing for the last six years at Santee Lynches was working with the state office," Munn said. "I knew all the staff, and I have already been working with them."

Munn said she knew what goals she had in place with the position. One goal was to bring the staff together as a unit by performing tasks with a team effort, as this will help address the needs of the elderly population more efficiently, she said.

"The staff have been there throughout many transitions, and so one of the first goals was just getting the staff together; coming together as a team," Munn said. "Our elderly population has grown faster than any other population."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent population estimate of ages 65 and older in South Carolina was 17.7% in 2018. In 2000, the state's 65 and older population was 12.1%, and it was 13.7% in 2010.

When Munn was a child and moved with her family to Bishopville, they lived with her grandmother, who Munn considers a big inspiration for her passion to care for the seniors of South Carolina.

At an early age, Munn watched her family care for her grandmother, and she said she always knew she wanted to be a social worker and an advocate for seniors.

"We have a very strong aging network," Munn said. "(We need) to be advocates for that vulnerable population because many times they don't have a voice for themselves."

The Department of Aging provides meals and caregiver support for the state's elderly population, as well as many other services. Munn plans to interact regularly with agencies and stakeholders across the state and seek partnerships and develop solutions to meet the needs of the state's senior population.

"It's unique because it's kind of like a fresh start," Munn said. "It's important to be at the table as a cabinet level because it gives me the opportunity to be at the table with other state cabinet agencies and to work with them and provide services for our seniors."

Munn recently met with seniors face-to-face all over the state, something she said she wants to continue to do.

"That's what I love," Munn said, "getting out and seeing the seniors and the impact the services make on them."

As she continues to progress in the director position, Munn said she will never forget the people who helped her get to where she is today, as many of them inspired her to drive that passion in helping her own elders toward helping everyone else's elders in the state.

"Several people in Sumter and Lee County are very supportive," Munn said. "Everyone has been very supportive of me in this position. I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. It's not something that I would have ever imagined. I have a heart for Sumter. It's home, and obviously, to me, the testimonies of the seniors here help motivate me more at the state level to be able to ensure these services continue for them."