A longtime Kennewick Public Hospital District commissioner faces two challengers in the August primary election.
Victor V. Johnson, who holds Pos. 4 on the board that oversees the Trios Health system, is vying to keep his seat against Don Campbell and Rick L. Fehr.
Johnson said he brings knowledge and experience to the board, while Campbell and Fehr said it’s time for new leadership and fresh ideas.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 4 primary will advance to the November general election.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The term is six years. Commissioners are paid $114 per day spent at meetings.
Johnson, 81, is vice president of the seven-member board.
He joined in 1998 and has helped lead the district — which now includes two hospitals and a network of care centers — through a period of transformation, including the opening of the new Trios Southridge Hospital and Trios Care Center at Southridge. The district also has added new services and launched the Tri-Cities’ first medical residency programs.
It’s also faced challenges, most prominently a cash crunch that prompted layoffs earlier this year.
Johnson said that “any new startup (like a new hospital) is going to go through some rocky periods” and district leaders had to make some tough decisions.
But the district’s finances are stronger now and the district has a viable and vital future, he said.
Johnson said he brings a breadth and depth of knowledge of the district and the health care world, along with responsible leadership, strategic direction and analytical skills. “I’ve got these years of experience. We’ve gone through the planning and implementation phase. We are going to continue to grow and we’ve got to plan and execute that growth,” said Johnson, a retired engineer and farmer.
Meanwhile, Campbell and Fehr both said it’s time for fresh eyes.
Campbell, 64, who’s retired from the nuclear industry, and Fehr, 50, who works for the Federal Reserve, both point to the district’s recent financial woes as symptoms of leadership issues.
And they said they would help break up the 4-3 division on the current board, allowing for new ideas.
Campbell said many employees have left the hospital system in the last year or so over concerns about its leadership and direction.
“We’ve got to do something about the exodus of doctors,” he said, adding that he would bring common sense and push for a measurable financial improvement plan and greater accountability for upper management.
“There’s so much that needs to be done and looked at. It’s obviously not going to be done overnight. But it starts with getting some new people in there,” Campbell said.
Fehr said recruiting and retaining physicians is a key need for the district.
He sees board service as a way to give back to the community and would be an independent thinker and voice, he said.
Fehr also said the board has several aging members, including Johnson, and it’s time to begin bringing in a new generation of leaders.
“I think there needs to be new fresh ideas, fresh eyes looking at things. What they’re doing is not working,” Fehr said. “I would like a chance to prove myself. I feel like I can help the people of Kennewick and surrounding areas and make this a better hospital.”