Kari Benson of St. Paul, an expert in aging services with more than 15 years of experience at the federal and state levels, has been named executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging and director of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Aging and Adult Services Division. The appointment took effect February 1.
She replaces Jean Wood, who is retiring. The position provides statewide aging services leadership for both DHS and the Minnesota Board on Aging. Benson will oversee planning for and providing sustainable financial, housing and service options for older Minnesotans, including management of Minnesota’s state and federally funded home and community-based services programs.
“Kari emerged as the best candidate to build on Minnesota’s nation-leading long-term services and supports system while exploring new possibilities for continuous improvement,” said Loren Colman, assistant commissioner for the DHS Continuing Care for Older Adults Administration. “As the population of older Minnesotans doubles in the next 15 years, she will play a key role with stakeholders in continuing to innovate to meet changing needs and ensuring Colman cited Benson’s background in both state and federal government as a strong asset, including her work with the federal Administration on Community Living and a number of positions at DHS. Most recently she has been planning and quality assurance manager in the aging area at DHS, supervising various functions including Older Americans Act planning and policy development, home and community-based services quality improvement and the Survey of Older Minnesotans. Previous roles include staff and leadership positions for health and nutrition programs as well as programs that help people stay in their homes and communities.
Benson holds a bachelor’s degree in human ecology and a certificate in gerontology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a master’s degree in public affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.