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Hospital board fills vacant seat

After conducting seven interviews and much deliberation, the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors swore in Michael Fitzpatrick to fill the fifth, vacant board chair at its Jan. 28 meeting.

Fitzpatrick’s appointment came after Bob Van Gelder, a clinical advisor with the district, was elected onto the board in November 2002. In December, Van Gelder found out his job with the district would present a conflict of interest if he sat on the board, according to California government code. If he did not resign, Van Gelder would have been automatically terminated from hospital staff when he was sworn into office.

Instead of holding another election, the four presiding board members decided to appoint a candidate into the vacated position. According to board President Dr. Karen Sessler, another election would cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.



After the seven candidates spoke individually about their qualifications, the board and Lee Auckenthaler, a registered nurse with the district, each nominated three candidates. All five voted for Fitzpatrick, a businessman who works with organizational behavior and emotional intelligence.

Fitzpatrick, who said he has been a patient at Tahoe Forest Hospital five times in his five years in Truckee, was very impressed with the hospital staff and “underimpressed by the facilities.”




Now Fitzpatrick may have a hand in changing the condition of 50-year-old hospital.

He and the board will oversee its renovation and 47,000-square-foot expansion, in addition to supervising CEO Robert Schapper, taking part in strategic planning, and overlooking the finances of the district.

“We feel like any one of these seven (candidates) would be a good board member,” Sessler said in an interview before the meeting. “We just have to figure out which one will make the best fit at this time.”

Prior to the interviews, the four presiding board members said they were looking for someone with assets ranging from a great connection to the community to good business sense.

“We got 20 suggestions from the candidates on how this board can better represent the community,” said board Treasurer Rob Eskridge. “That input is as, or more, valuable than the information about the applicants.”

Six other applicants applied for the seat: Suzanne Prouty, a former trustee for Tahoe Truckee Unified School District; Caroline Ford, director of the Nevada Office of Rural Health and assistant dean of the Center for Education and Health Services Outreach program at the University of Nevada School of Medicine; John Mohun, a Truckee realtor with a diverse background in law and health care; John Falk, a two-time hospital district board member and the only applicant who was also a candidate in the November 2002 election; Beverly Bedard, a Tahoe City businesswoman who was the executive director of the Tahoe City Chamber of Commerce for 13 years; and Thomas Niemann, a relative newcomer to Truckee with an extensive background in business and finance.


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