“I am well known for ‘telling it like I see it’ and while sometimes it may appear confrontational, it gets everything out in the open and allows me a seat at the table,” says Gary Maddox, CEO of the Southwest Center for Independent Living. “There is never any hidden agenda or politics.”
Katheryne Starger-Wilson, director of Missouri State University’s Disability Resource Center, says Maddox is a visionary leader with a social justice mindset.
“Let’s face it, working with those who have disabilities and advocating for attitudinal, architectural and programmatic inclusion is work that largely goes unrecognized and unappreciated,” she says. “Gary is not someone to avoid, but rather is sought after. He is the one who teaches us how to affect systemic change.”
During his eight years leading SCIL, Maddox has grown the staff to 48 employees from 20 and embarked on a three-phase 23,000-square-foot building expansion. A 6,700-square-foot addition was completed in 2010 and a $3 million capital campaign to fund the second phase kicks off soon. Maddox also helped expand services, including adding in-home care and a branch office in Branson.
Recently, he’s worked to provide affordable accessible housing in the community, including the Westport Park project and the Frisco Landmark Building.
But Maddox’s voice for the disabled doesn’t stop at his door – his advocacy message is statewide. He was twice appointed by Missouri governors to serve on the Missouri State Independent Living Council, previously chaired the Missouri State Rehabilitation Council and Missouri Parents Act and served as president of the Missouri Association of Centers for Independent Living.
But it’s his statewide work with the Missouri Olmstead Work Group Maddox counts among his proudest accomplishments. Following the Olmstead Decision of 1999, in which Missouri determined unjustifiable institutionalization of a person with a disability is discrimination, Maddox was handpicked to help expand a state pilot project seeking to help individuals with disabilities stay in their homes.
Through the group, the pilot evolved into the Missouri Consumer Directed Services program that enables more than 20,000 Missourians with disabilities.
Maddox’s efforts also are national and even international. He is currently serving his second term on the national board of directors for the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living and was part of a nine-person team that traveled to Peru to guide leaders in promoting the independent living movement in the county.
Maddox says he’s always tried to lead by example, motivating people both with and without disabilities to influence positive change.
Serving as president and administrator of the Rosebud Youth Home, in Hamilton, for five years, Maddox says he had the opportunity to help at-risk youth become independent, productive members of the community.
“The success of those kids was a direct reflection of my leadership and our team of mentors,” he says. “I have over 35 kids and many still stay in contact with their ‘Dad.’”
Maddox says through the years he’s learned one essential truth: success takes planning.
“You must have vision and plan ahead, keeping the big picture in mind,” he says. “You cannot be a leader if no one is following; you must get buy-in from others to turn your vision into reality.”[[In-content Ad]]