Cultivating Relationships with Communities in Need

Effective leadership is crucial to the quality of care people with disabilities and their families receive. When it comes to the San Diego Regional Center (SDRC), CEO Mark Klaus is not only a leader in his own right but has also invested in his staff by encouraging them to hone their skills and build trust with the people they serve.

What does your role as CEO of the San Diego Regional Center entail?
As Executive Director of the SDRC, I oversee the programs, services and community-based providers who support more than 37,000 people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in San Diego and Imperial Counties. I work closely with state legislators on policies and procedures to improve funding for our programs. I also collaborate with community leaders and other regional centers to address the unmet needs and underserved community members with special needs.

How would you describe the San Diego Regional Center’s mission?
Our mission is to serve and empower people with developmental disabilities and their families to achieve their goals with community partners. We strive to enhance the quality of the individuals’ daily living experiences by providing services that offer activities that are meaningful to them. We understand the disparities in service among ethnic groups and continually seek strategies to address them.

Where does your passion for helping others stem from?
When I was in high school, I volunteered at an organization in Champaign, Illinois that provided residential and day services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The people I interacted with had a wonderful outlook on life and, like all of us, had big dreams, hopes and desires. Making a positive impact on the lives of others has been my passion for over 40 years.

How would you characterize your leadership style?
I was taught long ago by a mentor of mine that you need to be present, engaged, open, honest and most importantly, yourself. I believe a leader must have a vision shaped by clear goals and objectives. I engage with everyone at every level because it is the human thing to do and I understand we ALL have important jobs. I also try to bring humor into the office, and people know that my door is always open.

What inspires you in your personal and professional life?
My family has always been an inspiration in my life. My parents were both great role models. They were married young and started out with very little. Through hard work, dedication and a commitment to each other and our family, they had an amazing life together for over 60 years. The rock in my life is my wife of 35 years, Angie. She is an amazing mother to our two daughters and grandmother to our grandson. The fact that she has always supported my efforts to make a positive impact in our clients’ lives and endures my long working hours means the world to me.