Muenster Memorial Hospital District Chief Executive Officer Lynn Heller resigned in late December.
To be exact, he abruptly resigned during the executive session of a hospital board meeting Dec. 21.
Heller wasn’t reachable by phone despite repeated attempts. But some say his exit as CEO, though sudden, wasn’t exactly unexpected.
Board president Kenny Klement said a year ago, Heller had been offered a three-year contract extension but opted for a single year instead. This seemed to signal his plans to step down soon.
The announcement itself was friendly.
“He just came in that night and his contact was to be renewed, and we were in the process of his evaluation,” Klement said. “And he said, ‘You know, guys, I think I’d like to quit.’”
Klement also said Heller had actually mentioned retirement a year earlier.
“We were thinking for some time about what would happen if he did leave,” he said. “We were anticipating some change in the future, but we didn’t know when.”
Klement said there have been no hard feelings in the matter — and on sight, Heller has seemed happy enough. He also had vacation time pending and took it through the end of 2010. Board secretary John Aytes, also at the meeting, agreed Heller’s exit was diplomatic. He said Michael Kent, already in training as the district’s chief operating officer, is filling Heller’s position in interim.
Aytes added that the hiring process has just begun, that the situation is similar to North Texas Medical Center’s recent search for a chief executive officer, which took months. In that case, the hospital finally appointed Randy Bacus as CEO after months of him already serving as one.
It’s undetermined, however, if Kent will go on to officially keep this title.
“It behooves us to look widely,” Aytes said. “You can use what happened at the Gainesville hospital as a pattern for us. It’s not a matter of starting to interview tomorrow; it could take a number of months to get organized and do the interviewing and cull it down. So we’ve got that ahead of us.”
Kent is juggling this interim CEO spot with his regular service as the hospital’s information technology specialist.
“I’ve been with the hospital for nine years,” Kent said. “The hospital has been here for me and I’ve been here for it, so my plan is to continue that. My goal is to run the hospital smoothly and effectively for the benefit of our patients.”