Senior Living in Olympia WA

Our Team

Take a minute to get aquainted with our team at Koelsch Communities.

Aaron Koelsch | President/CEO

Aaron Koelsch CEOAaron Koelsch

President/CEO

Aaron brings more than 25+ years of hands-on experience and leadership to the organization’s highly seasoned team based in Olympia, WA.

Emmett Aaron Koelsch, President and CEO of Koelsch Senior Communities, literally grew up in a nursing home. His parents, Emmett and Alice, purchased a 52-bed nursing home in Kelso, WA, shortly before he was born and turned the basement into their family home. “My parents made it a place where people would want to live because we lived there, too,” Aaron has often said. Aaron grew up attending church, playing baseball and learning every aspect of senior care from the ground up. After college, he spent four years working for a national health care provider as a Nursing Home Administrator. In 1988 at age 29, Aaron built his first Assisted Living Community and served as the Executive Director for, Sterling Inn, in Victorville CA with his wife Judy as the Principle Designer. Judy has continued as the lead designer in every community since and she has complemented his leadership with her artistic talents.

Aaron remembers both the joy of starting out and the exhaustion, too, from long hours and fear of failure. “It was both scary and exhilarating, a time of growth I wouldn’t trade for anything,” he says. After 28 years at the helm, Aaron has grown his family business into 23 senior communities in seven states and 8 communities under construction in 2016 alone. He draws inspiration for his communities from his parents who modeled warmth and respect for co-workers and seniors, coupled with careful attention to detail. Preferring to be closely involved in every aspect of developing his communities, Aaron also founded his own construction company, Koelsch Construction, recognized for its expertise in senior housing and commercial projects. Aaron graduated from Walla Walla College in Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business.

Dan Williams | Chief Operating Officer

Dan Williams COODan Williams

Chief Operating Officer

Koelsch Communities is honored to have Dan Williams and his over 20 years of strategic leadership and management experiences on the team.  His distinctive background includes senior housing leadership roles as a Vice President, Regional Director, Operations Specialist, and Executive Director for independent senior living, assisted living and memory care communities.  Dan’s accomplishments in those key positions led successful startups and community turn-around projects.  Throughout his career, he has provided thought-provoking oversight and strong direction for hundreds of communities.

For his first job, Dan lived in a senior living building.  He learned the ropes by doing all of the jobs required and grew up with a vast knowledge of the internal workings of a community.  This education has afforded him opportunities in both the healthcare and the private education sector.  Growing up in the south, Dan learned from a very young age that Alabama football is king and that with a strong sense of purpose and determination obstacles are just hurdles to success.  

Dan joined Koelsch Communities in 2014 as the Chief Operating Officer in Olympia, Washington.  By utilizing his strategic vision, industry insights, and his relationship building skills, he is leading Koelsch Communities through one of the greatest growth movements in nearly sixty years.

Dan is married to his beautiful wife Connie, and they live with Bentley the Shetland sheepdog and Bella the Scottish terrier.

Dennis Christianson | Chief Financial Officer

Dennis Christianson CFODennis Christianson

Chief Financial Officer

Dennis has served as Koelsch Senior Communities top financial officer since 2010.

Dennis Christianson’s career began in clinical psychology before branching out into financial management. After a promotion into operations, he discovered he deeply enjoyed the financial management parts of his job. According to Dennis, the skill set is the same for both psychology and finance—careful analysis. From that point, he steered his career toward finance, choosing to serve institutions and companies that helped people, including a hospital, mental health clinics and a church. “Good intentions don’t go far without orderly, accurate care of financial resources,” he says.

Deeply valued for his creative problem-solving skills, Dennis has served as Koelsch Senior Communities top financial officer since 2010, during a time of rapid growth. Dennis grew up watching his father, a Wisconsin dairy farmer, and mother, a RN, take foster children and cousins into their home. “For my parents, caring for others was a natural part of life,” he says. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College Graduate School. Dennis and his wife Jayne have three daughters.

Cyndie Bryant, RN | Vice President of Operations

Cyndie Koelsch corporate teamCyndie Bryant, RN

VP of Memory Care and Professional Services

Cyndie Bryant, RN, joined Koelsch Senior Communities in 1999. Cyndie has over 20 years of experience as a registered nurse.

In 1999, Cyndie Bryant was hired as director of nursing for Koelsch Senior Community’s Canterbury Gardens in Longview, WA. Today, she has risen through the ranks to oversee nursing services at all 23 Koelsch communities. “We provide nurses on duty 24-hours, seven days a week. Few in the industry even try to compete with that level of care,” she says.

Cyndie, a detail-oriented RN with natural leadership skills, travels throughout the company’s seven state market, teaching and training nursing teams to care for residents. “When our nurses feel confident they have the tools needed to provide the quality care we expect, that’s success to me,” Cyndie says. Wanting a career helping people, Cyndie put herself through nursing school by working at McDonald’s. After graduating, she worked briefly in both the emergency and delivery rooms before choosing to make seniors her life’s work. “I love learning from seniors about their lives and experiences,” she says. Cyndie received her nursing degree from Lower Columbia College. She and her husband have two daughters.

 

Lesley Yanak | Vice President of Marketing

Lesley Yanak Koelsch teamLesley Yanak

Vice President of Marketing

Lesley has worked in senior housing since 1991. She began working with Koelsch Senior Communities in January 2009.

Lesley Yanak’s career in senior living began in 1991 when she accepted a marketing internship with a provider while still in college. After graduating from Pacific Lutheran University, she held a number of marketing leadership positions with major senior housing corporations, adding experience in acquisitions, start-ups and operations to her resume. Lesley trained employees for A Place for Mom, a national senior housing referral service, helping her build a network of industry contacts all over the country.

In 2006, she joined the marketing team at Koelsch Senior Communities. “I’m constantly amazed at the number of long-term employees at every level here at KSC,” says Lesley, who has become one of them. As Vice President of Marketing, Lesley creates the marketing tone for the company and travels to train and support marketing staff at each community. “Marketing is all about learning to tell each community’s story in a way that resonates with families,” she says. Lesley, who admits to thriving on hard work, lives with her husband, two children and assorted chickens, goats and donkeys on a seven-acre farm.

Eva Arant | Regional Director of Operations

Eva Arant corporate Koelsch teamEva Arant

Regional Director of Operations

Eva has been with Koelsch Senior Communities since 2008.

Eva Arant played volleyball for Chaminade University in Honolulu and coached the men’s volleyball team for Humbolt State University in California. In 1995, her career path took a turn from coaching to senior living. She managed a variety of senior housing communities for a respected national provider, gaining valuable hands-on experience in operations. In 2008, Eva joined Koelsch Senior Communities as Executive Director of The Hampton in Vancouver, WA.

Recognized for her ability to lead and develop employee talent, Eva was promoted to Regional Director of Operations for memory care communities in 2012. At KSC, Eva has found herself back in the familiar role of coaching again. “I’m doing the same things I loved in college athletics, mentoring and trying to inspire the best performance possible out of our employee teams,” she says. Eva holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. She and her husband have three children.

Becky Stokesbary | Regional Director of Operations

Beck Stokesbary corporate teamBecky Stokesbary

Regional Director of Operations

Becky has been with Koelsch Senior Communities since August 2011. After working as an Executive Director for 3 years.

Becky Stokesbary inspired a generation of young people as a beloved teacher and principal for 26 years before choosing senior living as a second career. In 2011, she joined Koelsch Senior Communities as Executive Director of Canterbury Inn, an independent and assisted-living community in Longview, WA. 

Today she oversees operations at all the company’s independent and assisted-living communities. “I try to offer the same support and inspiration to Executive Directors that Aaron and other company leaders provide to me,” she says. Becky has earned respect in her new career for her leadership ability and her humble willingness to serve and learn from others. “My favorite part of my new career is the same thing I loved about being an educator—the opportunity to build relationships,” she says. “I love developing relationships with staff and with our residents and their families.” Becky graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Elementary Education and Child and Family Studies. She and her husband have two grown children and one grandchild.

Michelle Baker | Regional Director of Operations

Beck Stokesbary corporate teamMichelle Baker

Regional Director of Operations

Koelsch Communities, is proud to have Michelle Baker and her 26 years of leadership and management experience on the team.  Her vibrant background, includes healthcare settings in independent senior living, assisted living and memory care.  Her strong leadership skills shined through with multiple roles as an Executive Director and Regional Director by continuing to lead the industry in staff training, coaching, mentoring, project management and operations.

Michelle’s Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, from the University of Missouri, has afforded her opportunities in both the healthcare industry and the telecommunications industry.  Growing up in a small Missouri farm town, Michelle knows the meaning of hard work, family and personal integrity.  “Families entrust us to provide the very best of care for their loved ones, it’s a challenge and a responsibility I take very seriously,” says Michelle.

Michelle joined Koelsch Communities in 2013 as the Executive Director of Spring Creek Inn in Bozeman, Montana.  By utilizing her problem-solving, organizational, and her relationship building skills, she has been promoted to Regional Director of Operations for the Mountain States Region, where she continues to lead her teams to unprecedented growth and excellence.

Michelle and her husband, Greg, reside in Bozeman, MT with their son, Cole and their dog, Oakley.  Her interests include water skiing, snow skiing and spending time with family.

Garth Brandt | General Counsel/Director of HR

Garth Brandt Koelsch teamGarth Brandt

General Counsel/Director of HR

Garth Brandt practiced law at a firm specializing in senior housing before joining Koelsch Senior Communities as Associate General Counsel in 2002. He crossed over to the operations side of the business two years later, starting his tenure by living for a time in the senior community he managed. Garth was named Vice President of Operations in 2005 and served as a focused, dependable leader during a nearly 10-year period of rapid growth. In 2014, he chose to return to a legal role, serving as General Counsel for the company. In addition, he heads up KSC’s Human Resources Department. “I enjoy being part of a leadership team that is passionate about providing the very best care, community and customer service to seniors,” he says. Garth holds business and law degrees from the University of Washington. He and his wife have one daughter.

Judy Koelsch | Principal Designer

Judy Koelsch corporate teamJudy Koelsch

Principal Designer

Judy Koelsch has been the principal designer for Koelsch Senior Communities since its inception.

Judy Koelsch grew up in a hard-working entrepreneurial family that emigrated from Egypt and cherished America’s religious freedom and opportunity to thrive. Judy gravitated toward artistic expression from a young age. She earned a business degree from the University of Redlands, but nurtured a passion for interior design. In 1983, she married her high school sweetheart, Aaron Koelsch. Aaron’s mother, Alice, and his sisters encouraged her love for creating beautiful spaces and taught her to appreciate antiques. When Aaron and Judy were in their mid-20s, they broke ground on their first senior community, Sterling Inn, in Southern California.

Seeing an opportunity to try her hand at interior design, Judy founded her own business, JSK Design, and adopted Sterling Inn as her first professional challenge. The successful venture opened doors to designing banks, restaurants and other senior communities. Judy learned hard work and persistence are as important as passion in running a successful design business. As her family grew, she chose to limit her work to Koelsch Senior Communities exclusively. The principal designer for 25 KSC communities, Judy creates classic, timeless interiors with welcoming comfort and elegance. “I want my interiors to emotionally connect with residents and convey the peace and warmth of coming home,” she says.  Judy and Aaron have four children.

Tom Owens | Asset Manager

Tom Owens corporate teamTom Owens

Asset Manager

Tom Owens brings a can-do background of commercial building design, construction, maintenance and mechanical repair to Koelsch Senior Communities.

Tom joined the company in 2008 as Maintenance Director for Sterling Inn and Sterling Commons, Victorville, CA. In 2014, Tom was promoted to Asset Manager, a new position created at the home office to oversee plant operations for all KSC properties. Tom’s take-charge attitude and detail-oriented approach help keep the company’s communities showcases of comfort and elegance. “I want our properties to reflect love, dignity and respect for seniors,” he says. “These aren’t just buildings to me—these are people’s homes.” Tom and his wife have four children.

​Benjamin Surmi | Director of Programs and Training

Benjamin Surmi koelsch teamBenjamin Surmi

Director of Programs and Training

Benjamin trains new Executive Directors in the Koelsch Personal Touch™ program and supports 80 Life Enrichment Directors in helping over 1,200 elders thrive.

Benjamin Surmi grew up listening to his aging neighbors tell stories of life during World War II. “I would sit mesmerized by the power of their story-telling skills,” he says. As he began volunteering in assisted living communities, he developed a specific passion for empowering elders to enjoy a fruitful, meaningful elderhood – no matter what disabilities they encountered. He graduated with an M.S. in Gerontology and had often been selected for leading new initiatives. He opened a new memory care neighborhood in California and pioneered the elder-directed Turner Lifelong Learning Center in Nashville – the first partnership with a YMCA in the nation. 
Most recently, he has worked with hundreds of families and professionals with Koelsch Senior Communities as Director of Community Relations and Executive Director. Now, he trains new Executive Directors in the Koelsch Personal Touch™ program and supports 80 Life Enrichment Directors in helping over 1,200 elders thrive. He and his wife have a little girl and a baby boy.

Joel August | Dining Services Specialist

Joel August koelsch teamJoel August

Dining Services Specialist

Joel brings creativity and new ideas to our dining programs.

Joel joined the company in 2014 as the Director of Dining Services at Cedarbrook Memory Care in Fresno, California. In 2016, Joel was promoted to Dining Services Specialist which is a new position created at our home office. Joel will be working alongside all of our communities helping plan, organize and coach our dining programs to the highest of standards. Joel graduated from California State University Fresno with his Bachelor’s Degree in Commercial Recreation/Hospitality Management. His food and beverage experiences include overseeing operations of a minor league baseball park, fine dining, catering and a dinner cruise of the coast off South Carolina. He brings creativity and new ideas to our dining programs.

Joel’s mission statement is simple: “To exceed expectations and provide a satisfying and rewarding dining experience for our residents/families.” Joel is a firm believer that a person feasts with their eyes first and that if something is presented nicely and visually appealing they are already psychologically thinking it will taste good. His drive to exceed expectations and attention to detail make him a valuable asset to the KSC team.