Calling it a career after 27 years
Tim Russell takes a seat at the baby grand piano in the living room of his home on the Stillwater River.
The early morning summer air is suddenly filled with beautiful music as Russell closes his eyes and plays.
It’s a fitting scene for Russell. Soft-spoken yet strong. Calm yet powerful. A behind-the-scenes guy who has been largely responsible for high quality healthcare services in his role as CEO of the Stillwater Billings Clinic.
The 55-year--old husband and father of four retired this month, bringing to an end a 27-year career in that role.
Jack of All Trades
Hired as the Stilwater County Hospital administrator in 1988, the job has included a wide range of duties. Reconciling the back accounts to serving as the backup maintenance man to actually laying the new flooring in the assisted living center.
“And at times, to be a calming voice,” said Russell.
The job initially involved a 27-bed facility that was eventually downsized. Down the road a nursing home was added, followed by a childcare center across the street, all under Russell’s watch.
“We’ve tried to niche ourselves appropriately,” said Russell, explaining that the childcare center was the result of a public survey that identified that as one of the top six things the public wanted the most.
The hospital was in the process of expanding in its old location when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The local impact of that natural disaster, said Russell, was that building prices skyrocketed, making it financially impossible to continue with the expansion plans.
“I’m so glad we couldn’t,” said Russell, adding that the new facility is far better than the older, expanded one would have been.
Leader, community pillar, friend
Russell credits the local healthcare team with providing him with a tremendous work experience, adding how the longevity of staff has been of great benefit.
Three of those staff who have worked their entire careers in Stillwater County under Russell express similar sentiment toward him.
“It has been a blessing to practice in a community with such a stable medical staff and administration,” said Dr. Richard Klee. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with him all these years.”
Dr. David Kane credits Russell with being the main force in bringing about changes to ensure the county has a high level of healthcare.
“I believe he is the main reason the new hospital/clinic campus became a reality as well as our close affiliation with the Billings Clinic,” said Kane. “Also he has been a leader in the region for rural health care and a champion for rural health needs. I can’t even begin to calculate how much Tim and Joyce have contributed to our community. The have been involved with everything.”
Kane also said Russell is a good friend.
“You don’t always get to say that about a CEO and coworkers,” said Kane.
Bev Kovanda, Stillwater Billings Clinic quality manager, had similar sentiments.
“Tim came to us with fresh ideas always looking ahead. Tim’s administrative style was open door,” said Kovanda. “With limited resources Tim was always looking for ways to provide quality healthcare as he was open to requests for education, equipment and improvements for nursing staff.”
Kovanda also said the she and Russell raised their families “up with SCH, working together as family, not as administrator and employee. Stillwater Billings Clinic will miss him and we hope he misses us as his healthcare family.”
Klee, Kane and Kovanda worked with Russell their entire careers.
Russell is as equally treasured outside of the local healthcare system.
“I think Tim could see the big picture regarding healthcare in small rural communities and worked hard to secure high quality healthcare into the future,” said Webb Mandeville. “We may never fully understand or appreciate the impact of his efforts on behalf of the residents of Stillwater County.” Mandeville noted that Russell provided “continuity and stability” through a wide range of changes in the healthcare industry and always sought to keep members of the community informed concerning the changes the hospital was facing.
“He did a great job for all of us,” said Mandeville.
The Road To Stillwater
Russell went to high school in Laurel and met his wife, Joyce Kelley, while both were playing college basketball at Rocky Mountain College. The couple was in Texas when Russell’s high school football coach called him about the job opening at the Stillwater hospital in 1988. At the time, Russell was working as a financial officer/associate administrator at Dallas Medical and Surgical Hospital/Clinic. Prior to that he worked as an accountant at the 800-bed Parkland Memorial Hospital.
The couple first came to Columbus with the idea that it was a two or three year stop. But it became their home where they raised four children and are deeply meshed into the community.
“It’s been a tremendous community to raise children in,” said Russell. “And we don’t plan on leaving.”
The transition into the new facility, coupled with some personal issues, prompted Russell’s retirement.
As for the future, Russell’s immediate plans are to soak in his family, do some traveling, work on some of his “projects” (smiling and looking around his house/property) and spend time with the family’s horses.
He does plan to work and will likely stay in healthcare in some capacity.