COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Two people have applied for the two open Boone Hospital Trustee seats that will be on the ballot in the April 2024 municipal election.
As of Tuesday, Gary Thompson and current Board member Judy Starr are the two people who have applied for the seats.
Thompson currently serves as the CEO of Columbia Insurance Group. According to a Monday release, Thompson said he will retire from Columbia Insurance Group on Jan. 1 after serving 12 years as the company’s CEO.
However, he told ABC 17 News that the retirement had nothing to do with his candidacy.
“That was a planned retirement,” Thompson, who has worked for Columbia Insurance Group for 34 years, said. “We announced that back in April that I was stepping down as president and CEO starting January 1. The timing is such that it is going to allow me additional time to be able to devote more time to assisting the board and leadership team at Boone to continue their path to success.”
Thompson currently works on the hospital’s Board of Directors and the Audit and Finance Committee for Boone Health.
“I was honored and humbled to be asked by the trustees about three years ago to be one of the six community members added to the board of directors at Boone Health moved to independence after over a 30-year lease with BJC in St Louis," he said. "So I’ve had an opportunity to bring my business experience, financial management, strategic planning, and board of governance experience to the new Boone Health board. My reasoning for placing my name on the ballot to serve as a trustee is to continue the job.”
Thompson is hoping his financial experience can help out Boone Hospital on a more stable “financial footing moving forward” as it continues its transition out of a 33-year-long management agreement with St. Louis-based BJC Healthcare.
“Starting up an independent health care system was not inexpensive and so we incurred significant costs to do that. That was planned. What we didn’t plan for was to navigate through that during a pandemic,” Thompson said. “Improving the financial strength of Boone is one of my top priorities.”
Judy Starr, a current member of the Boone Hospital Board of Trustees, will file to retain her seat on Tuesday, according to a Monday news release.
Starr was appointed to the position last month by the Boone County Commissioners following the resignation of Greg Steinhoff.
“She has a lifelong experience in the financial world. She has experience in Boone Hospital itself, she’s worked a lot with not-for-profits in our community as well,” Boone County Northern District Commissioner Janet Thompson said.
Starr will hold the seat until April but filed to run for the remaining four years of Steinhoff’s unexpired term.
My reason for stepping up for that was when I interviewed with the county commission, I’d been serving on the Boone board as a community director for four years and when that seat became available I just thought it was the right time for me.
Janet Thompson added that Starr was the only applicant to fill Steinhoff’s vacancy who lived in the county.
“The hospital board, there is a requirement that a certain percentage of the board be folks who are resident in unincorporated Boone County and that would be Judy. Of the people who applied to fill that gap, Judy was the only one who applied who lived in unincorporated Boone County. But she is extremely qualified,” Janet Thompson said.
Starr is an executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Central Bank of Boone County, according to a release. She is also the treasurer and finance chair of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
"The short-term and long-term goal is we have to get the finances to where it’s a positive operating margin," Starr told ABC 17 News. "When you are struggling financially, obviously, you're not making the capital improvements that need to be made so the last couple of years probably we haven't made the capital investments we need to make."
“The hospital I think is right on the cusp of turning positive financial results,” Starr said. “I think there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that we are on sound financial footing and I think that’s where I can add some value. I just started sharing the audit and finance committee and trying to bring some more structure to that committee."
Starr added that because BJC Healthcare controlled the committees, there was no “structure or governance” around any of some of the hospital's key committees.
While the Board of Trustee position may be far down the ballot in April, Janet Thompson says that it isn’t something that voters should ignore.
“This is incredibly important because a hospital, especially a hospital like Boone Hospital that has been a part of the community for so long, provides an extraordinarily important service to our community,” Janet Thompson said. “Health care is one of the drivers of our economic vitality but it also just by definition it feeds into how healthy our community is. Having people who are passionate about the success of Boone Hospital and have the skills to make that voyage of the board of trustees successful is critically important to anyone who lives in this community."