The search for a CEO is well under way

The long search for a new chief executive officer for Dickinson's St. Luke's Home is nearing its end. A seven-member search committee is working to find a replacement for current CEO Lyle Brudvig who has held the position at St. Luke's since 1982...

The long search for a new chief executive officer for Dickinson's St. Luke's Home is nearing its end.

A seven-member search committee is working to find a replacement for current CEO Lyle Brudvig who has held the position at St. Luke's since 1982.

"St. Luke's has been around for 50 years," former board President Marty Opdahl said. "And Lyle has been around for half of that. That is quite a statement in itself. Trying to replace him with someone different is a tremendous challenge."

Brudvig gave the board his retirement notice last March. Since then, the search committee narrowed the candidate list from a nationwide pool to two prospects and hopes to make an offer for the position in early May.

The search committee was appointed by the St. Luke's Home board of directors and consists of five board members, an accountant and a St. Luke's staff member.


Kris Fehr is a board representative and chairs the search committee.

"The candidates we interviewed were all from North Dakota," Fehr said. "We have a very different reimbursement system than other states in the United States. Whoever is hired will be very familiar in doing business at this nursing home."

Because St. Luke's is a non-profit organization, information on the candidates is confidential until the position has been accepted.

The committee interviewed four candidates last month. From those four, two have been selected for an additional interview. The interviews to be conducted at the end of April are very comprehensive, Fehr said. The candidates are to have a full day visiting with staff members and touring the St. Luke's and Park Avenue Villa facilities.

"We're hoping we will be able to extend an offer in May," Fehr said. "However, there is a possibility of a third interview depending on how things go."

Starting the search

It took a lot of research for the search committee to get this far in the process. The first step brought them to OASIS, Organizational Assessment and Intervention Services, a consulting firm in Baltimore, Md. OASIS provides assessment, consultation and intervention services to Lutheran social ministry organizations like St. Luke's during times of transition.

The consultants visited Dickinson in October 2006 and produced a report for the search committee and board members.


"Part of the report was a profile of what we needed to be looking for in a candidate," Fehr said. "It was nice to have that outside perspective."

The next step

With that perspective, the search committee took the next step and turned to Deffet Group Inc., an executive search firm based in Ohio. Deffet Group Inc. specializes in finding executives for healthcare providers.

"The search firm advertised the position nationwide, focusing on places nursing home personnel would be looking," Fehr said. "They also personally contacted candidates within a four-or-five-state region to see if they were interested."

As it turned out, the prime candidates were found right here in North Dakota.

"We didn't know what sort of response to expect," Fehr said. "They contacted several hundred people across the U.S. We were happy to have a great response from the state of North Dakota."

The search firm recommended four candidates to the committee. Those four candidates were then invited to an interview.

"They all have experience and each is an excellent administrator where they are now," Fehr said. "It's really good to see we have that quality in our state. We were pleased with the quality and experience in the candidates.


"As an organization, we're at the point where we don't want to be the training ground for a new administrator. St. Luke's needs someone who has the experience."

Internal input

The search for St. Luke's new CEO has been intensive, not only by seeking input from outside experts, but also getting feedback from the people who are directly affected by the change.

"It's important to understand that this is a very thoughtful process," Fehr said. "We need to ask ourselves 'Is this person the right fit for the CEO position and for St. Luke's?'" We've had input from the local pastors, from residents and family members and staff.

"This transition will be a huge change for the board, a huge change for the staff and a huge change for the residents and their families."

As all changes do, this change stirs a variety of feelings among board members and staff.

"There is a sense of excitement," Opdahl said. "It's an enthusiasm for the future and looking ahead to what levels we can take St. Luke's to in the future."

Moving forward


"The search process all the way from the consultation to where we are right now has taught us quite a bit about ourselves already as a board," Opdahl said. "It tells us where we should have more involvement and where we will need to take more involvement in the management of the facility. With the reliance we've had on Lyle to run the place, the board has taken an attitude that they are going to have to take a more active role than they have in the past."

Throughout the search, the board has been presented with several outside perspectives from the search firm and the consultant. However, the most surprising outside perspective has come from the applicants themselves.

"In interviewing the different applicants, they themselves have taught us about how other organizations run their operations," Opdahl said. "We're very happy with the way things have run at St. Luke's and we've learned what we could do in the future."

As the board prepares to make a job offer, it appreciates all the input it has received.

"...but what the board is most grateful for is the time they've had to research and make this decision," Fehr said. "What was really great and what the board really appreciated was Lyle giving us time to make a smooth transition to a new administrator. It takes a long time to find the right administrator.

"Lyle has dedicated his life to that facility. I can only imagine that he thought about what was best for the home."

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