The search is on for a new chief financial officer for the Wallowa Valley Health Care District to replace Lexi Fields, who is planning to retire in September.

During the district’s monthly meeting Monday, March 25, CEO Dave Harman, who had earlier announced his own retirement at the end of June this year, said he had agreed to continue in his job for another six months and to be in charge of finding Fields’ replacement.

A board committee, which had already started the search for Harman’s successor, has put that effort on hold for now.

Harman told the board that qualifications of candidates include extensive financial experience and expertise, as well as experience in a small hospital, preferably a critical access hospital such as Wallowa Memorial Hospital.

He said there has already been considerable interest in the position. This will be Harman’s second search for a CFO; Fields was hired in January 2008, succeeding Randal Anderson, when Harman was still new in his CEO position. A native Oregonian, she had previously worked for a hospital in Hawaii.

Harman said that Fields has done an outstanding job for the district.

“Lexi was a godsend to the hospital in my opinion,” Harman said. “She was knowledgeable in finance with a lot of experience with small hospitals and personally is great to work with.”

Harman said that when Fields was hired the district had about a quarter of a million dollars in the bank and 10 days’ cash on hand, compared to $8 million and around 200 days’ cash now.

He explained that the reason the district’s cash assets were so low was because it had funneled money into the construction of the hospital to borrow as little as possible.

“Lexi has done a fantastic job,” he said.

She plans to continue at WMH to work with her successor until about September, Harman said. Fields and her husband, Leonard, who is already retired, are planning to move to the Shastina, Calif., area to be close to family.

About his own delayed retirement – he now plans to stay on the job until about the first of next year – Harman said, “This is the best job I’ve ever had. Working another six months is not that big of a deal.”

In other business at the meeting, an update on construction of the Wallowa Valley Senior Living center was all positive, with completion expected near the end of May.

Ted Johnson of Marathon Development, which will manage the new facility, said two meetings have already been held with the families of present nursing home residents.

He said Marathon expects to start interviewing applicants for a new staff of about 25 employees April 8, with preference given to current employees of the Wallowa Valley Care Center.

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