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BREAKING NEWS

Nelson leaves St. Luke’s

By Staff | Dec 6, 2010

St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth will be looking for a new chief executive officer with the recent departure of Gene Nelson.

In a brief official statement last week, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center in Blue Earth and Gene Nelson, its chief executive officer, jointly announced that Nelson left St. Luke’s effective Friday, Dec. 3.

St. Luke’s owns and operates Friendship Court, Southview Estates and New Life Manor, as well as a nursing care center in Blue Earth which serves a large area.

“I have enjoyed my time here at St. Luke’s,” Nelson says. “During my tenure, I completed a $9 million renovation, and returned the operating budget into the black. I am looking forward to spending more time with my family.”

Former St. Luke’s Board Chair (and current board member) John Huisman, and current Interim Chair Carolyn Halvorson, also had written comments on the situation.

“Gene was a positive force while with St. Luke’s,” the two say in the prepared statement. “We are very thankful for his work and many accomplishments. We wish him well.”

The announcement ends several weeks of rumors in the community concerning the St. Luke’s Board of Directors having concerns over several recent decisions, and the fact that boardmembers say they were not aware of the decisions as they occurred.

Many of those decisions concerned changes in staff and personnel, board members have said.

“We were not kept informed of what was going on,” one board member told the Register, asking not to be identified. “Employees were also afraid to voice their concerns to us. It was not a good situation.”

St. Luke’s has contracted with Pathway Health Services to have an interim CEO in place beginning Monday, Dec. 6.

Leah M. Killian-Smith will be the interim administrator for two weeks, then will be replaced by someone else from Pathway, a board member explains.

Pathway is an agency which, among other things, helps supply interim personnel in the medical field. St. Luke’s currently has an interim director of nursing from Pathway, following the resignation of Becky Plocker from that position.

Board members say one of the interim CEO’s first duties will be to assist the board as they begin the search for a new administrator.

The St. Luke’s board is composed of representatives from 16 Lutheran churches from around the area. Plus, one additional board member is to be a non-Lutheran, according to St. Luke’s by-laws.

The full board only meets a few times a year, says Interim Chair Halvorson. The rest of the months a smaller executive board meets.

“I was asked a month ago to step in as interim chair, as some board members were asking for a change,” she explains. “I am sure my appointment is temporary, until we elect a new slate of officers in February.”

She has served as vice chair on the board for many, many years.

Halvorson is from Rake, Iowa, and represents Zion Lutheran Church on the St. Luke’s board. She is serving her third term and has two years yet to serve.

“This is actually the second time around that I have served on the board,” she says. “The first time I was the first woman ever to be selected.”

“St. Luke’s is an important institution in the community,” Halvorson adds. “We employ over 200 people.”

St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center began in 1955 as an idea of Dr. Lewis Hanson and others, in Frost. They felt there was a need for a long-term care facility in the Blue Earth area.

After several years of promoting and fundraising, the first groundbreaking ceremony was on Dec. 31, 1961. It was completed on April 15, 1963.

Over the years it has expanded with several more churches joining the governing board, and many additions to the complex constructed.