Joey Marie Horton, 28: North Country Family Health Center


What drives Joey Marie Horton to be the successful leader?

“The best advice I’ve ever followed was from Denise Young, who was my former boss,” Mrs. Horton said. “Denise told me on numerous occasions that to be a truly good leader I needed to surround myself with really smart, committed, hardworking individuals, and then I needed to empower them to excel at their jobs.”

The 28-year-old North Country Family Health Center executive director has taken that advice to heart. She considers her team “tremendous” and she does everything she can to help them excel.

“My success and the progress that we have made at the health center can only be attributed to their great work,” Mrs. Horton said.

Mrs. Horton was appointed executive director in February after serving as interim director for four months. She’s had several jobs leading up to her present one, but the one few know about is the time she spent in a rat lab.

“I was a research assistant on a study evaluating the impact of neglectful upbringing on stress management,” said Mrs. Horton, who tested rat blood for stress hormones.

Mrs. Horton cited many people who have motivated her in her young career, including her mother, colleague Dr. Dana Shaw and Samaritan Medical Center CEO Thomas H. Carman. Each have taught her the value of ambition, how to see the bigger picture, how to be a compassionate health care administrator and finding balance between work and family, which is a challenge. When it comes to what she’s sacrificed, she is quick to say time with her husband, Hunter.

“As most working mothers would say when we think of our personal lives, we put our children first, then our husband,” she admitted. “Luckily, I am blessed with an exceptionally understanding husband who supports me unconditionally. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his support, guidance and encouragement.”

Mrs. Horton is the mother to a 22-month-old son, Greyson, who gets her out of bed each morning.

“[He] calls for ‘Mommy, Mommy’ at 4:30 a.m. Though I wish he were a better sleeper, nothing in this world beats those words with a big bright smile in the morning,” she said.

While her family supports her, her work motivates her.

“There is never a dull moment, which I love. Every day brings some new adventure or problem,” said Mrs. Horton, who does not balk at the challenge. “There have been numerous changes in health care within the last couple of years and more changes are coming. This is a truly exciting time to be in this field; to be part of a systematic change with a goal of making the entire system patient-centered and focused on quality as opposed to quantity.”

While there’s a long road ahead for the health care industry, it was a long road for her to get to where she is now.

“I have learned that what seems to be impossible can always be made possible if you take it one step at a time; that it is important to delegate and that perfection is not always possible,” said Mrs. Horton, whose work is just beginning.

Things may seem like they’re going well for the Alexandria Bay graduate, but there’s at least one person she’d be willing to trade places with.

“Angelina Jolie. She has utilized her fame and fortune to do amazing philanthropic and advocacy work throughout the world, which I admire, and she is a busy working mom,” Mrs. Horton said. “It would be incredible to spend a day, with the resources available to her, doing amazing things for people in need.”

Of the draw to working in her own community, she added, “Given that we live in a small community you truly can see the impact that you are making first hand when you get involved and engage. I am inspired by the people in this community who make this such a great place to live.”

— by Amanda Thompson-Tangalin


The Joey Marie Horton File

Hometown: Alexandria Bay

Professional position: Executive director, North Country Family Health Center

Family: Parents, Joseph and Diane Recupero; husband, Hunter; son, Greyson, 22 months

Education: Bachelor’s in psychology and health studies with honors, Queen’s University; master of business administration in health services management, SUNYIT

Community involvement: Board member: School-Based Health Care Alliance, Washington, D.C., Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, Greater Watertown Jaycees – also membership vice president, New York Statewide Health Center Controlled Network; member: North Country Behavioral Healthcare Network and American College of Health Care Executives

Last book read: “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. “It’s one of my son’s favorites at bedtime.”