Aspen Valley Hospital CEO search plods along
It has been since mid-January that Aspen Valley Hospital’s CEO tendered his resignation, but the search for a replacement has been seemingly nonexistent.
That’s according to some candidates vying for the two seats on the hospital’s board of directors. The importance of the CEO position, as well as process to find one, was a topic of chief concern among the five candidates who spoke at a forum Wednesday at the Mountain Chalet.
The forum was organized and moderated by Aspen resident Howard Wallach, who also is chair of the Pitkin County Democrats. Two candidates, incumbent Mindy Nagle and challenger Joseph Nedlin, did not participate. Viewers can watch the forum on the GrassRoots Community Television website or by visiting this link.
“Clearly the hospital lives and dies by the CEO, and the hospital board needs to follow the performance of our CEO and I think the hospital board has failed in doing its duties the last several years,” said board candidate Dr. Eric Willsky. “Since January 18, we’ve been without a CEO and we’re supposedly doing a search. Nothing has been sent out to any CEOs that this is available, and I will change this on Day 1.”
The hospital’s interim CEO, Terry Collins, was out of town on family matters Thursday, but said in an email that executive headhunting firm Witt/Kieffer, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, is still in the process of compiling information for the position. Collins also said he is unsure if he will seek the post.
“I have not declared interest in the permanent position yet,” Collins’ email said. “However, that isn’t holding up the process. Witt/Kieffer is still defining the attributes of the future CEO, and when they’ve finished that, they will begin looking for candidates. My candidacy has nothing to do with it.”
Prior to Collilns, the last interim CEO at the hospital was John Sarpa, who resigned from his board-member post to take the role. Sarpa took the temporary place of David Ressler, who resigned after nine years in April 2013. Dan Bonk accepted the job that October and joined the hospital in January 2014. Bonk’s stated position for resigning was to be with his family in Wisconsin.
At a February hospital meeting, board member David Eisenstat said the goal was to hire a CEO within five months.
“You’d be surprised how relatively few qualified candidates apply for this job,” he said at the time. “Candidly, it’s not as easy as we’d like to think.”
Eisenstat and Nagle were appointed to a search committee to work with Witt/Kieffer. Neither responded to messages seeking comment Thursday.
The CEO position will be critical to the hospital’s direction, candidates agreed, especially at a time when the medical facility is in dogfight for business with Valley View Hospital and the Steadman Clinic in Vail.
One of the themes at the forum was an apparent disconnect among the hospital’s brass, staff and community. And looking locally to fill a key position would be a disservice to the community, candidates said.
“I do feel it’s the board’s responsibility to do a national search to find the best candidate,” said Rudi Scheidt.
Candidate Peter Hershberger also questioned why the finalists in the last search, which led to the hiring of Dan Bonk, haven’t been contacted for the position.
Ballots for the hospital board have been mailed to residents within the hospital district and must be returned by 7 p.m. Tuesday. They can either be mailed or dropped off at Aspen Valley Hospital, 401 Castle Creek Rd.
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The Aspen High School girls soccer team pulled off a stunner on Wednesday, beating No. 2 seed and game host Manitou Springs 5-1 to advance to the Class 3A state quarterfinals. The Skiers will next face Colorado Academy on Saturday.