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Kristin Merlo to Lead Delta Dental of Arkansas

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Delta Dental of Arkansas has named Kristin Merlo president and CEO, effective Sept. 29, following a nationwide search.

Merlo will succeed Ed Choate, who is retiring.

“Kristin brings a deep level of experience in business transformation, including information technology systems and sales and marketing platforms for growth,” Wayne Callahan, board chairman, said in a news release. “She follows the great leadership established by Ed Choate and will continue to build on the winning culture at Delta Dental of Arkansas for the future. 

“Kristin has a passion for our business and brings a lot of energy to our mission.”

Merlo has served in senior leadership roles in the Delta Dental system over the past 21 years, most recently as senior vice president and chief operating officer for Delta Dental of Virginia from 2018 to 2021 and with Delta Dental of Washington from 2000 to 2018. 

Before joining Delta Dental, Merlo served in various sales, marketing, and brand management roles with Eli Lilly and Co.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Delta Dental of Arkansas at such an exciting point in the company’s history,” Merlo said, adding that she sees opportunities to build on the company’s brand and transform customer experiences.

“Working in the Delta Dental system as long as I have and across functions and locations, it is a testament to the Delta Dental system that there is a career path, irrespective of gender, for anyone to become a CEO,” she said. “To be one of three women CEOs in the Delta Dental system is a responsibility that is not lost on me. I am grateful to the many mentors I have had across the system.”

Two other women lead Delta Dental operations: Helen Drexler of Delta Dental of Colorado and Marianne Ortiz of Delta Dental of Puerto Rico.

Merlo earned her bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA from the University of Virginia. 

Established in 1982, Delta Dental of Arkansas is the largest dental and vision insurance provider in the state, with more than 800,000 customers. It is part of the Delta Dental Plans Association, a network of 39 independent Delta Dental companies across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

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