New CEO of Meeker Memorial Hospital Kurt Waldbillig makes a colorful statement with his socks.

Raised in the small community of Stanley, North Dakota, new Meeker Memorial Hospital CEO Kurt Waldbillig said he has enjoyed relocating to Litchfield so far.

“I’ve been here eight weeks so far,” Waldbillig said. “Love it.”

Waldbillig spent the past three years as CEO of Benson Swift County Hosptial of Benson, Minnesota. He thought he was going to retire there, but saw the opening at Meeker Memorial Hospital.

“I like the location of Litchfield,” Waldbillig said. “It’s under an hour from the cities and in the middle of everything.”

He said Meeker Memorial stood out to him as a strong facility that offered many services to residents of Meeker County. He likes the town — there are plenty of restaurant options, he said. Waldbillig is also a fan of ice fishing, so with Lake Ripley close by, Litchfield seemed like a perfect fit.

Getting into hospital management was accidental for Waldbillig, as he obtained his bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of North Dakota. From there, he worked with delinquent adolescents. When he decided to go back to get his master’s at University of Mary in Bismarck, he said there were two options.

“I could either study social work again or choose the health care track, so I decided to try health care,” Waldbillig said.

After college he applied to work as the CEO of a small critical access hospital and got the job. He’s been working in hospitals and health care ever since. His passion is health care and service, especially in rural areas.

Waldbillig worked for a larger hospital at one time, but made a point to build a network of critical access hospitals. Critical access is a designation given to rural hospitals to be Medicare and Medicaid eligible, which can be vital to providing health care to rural communities.

“We have a great staff out here,” he said. “They are taking care of their neighbors.”

In addition to being an advocate for rural hospitals, he’s a fan of socks. In fact, every day he wears multicolored or patterned socks, a source close to Waldbillig revealed.

“In this line of work, you have to have a sense of humor,” Waldbillig said.

Part of his work is not only to direct and lead the company but to engage his staff. Waldbillig said a former CEO always told him the title stands for “Chief Engagement Officer.”

“Health care is changing so much, and it’s changing rapidly,” Waldbillig said. “How do you engage your staff with how rapidly the job is changing? You always have to do more with less.”

The hiring process for Meeker Memorial Hospital CEO looked at a pool of 54 candidates to replace former CEO Kyle Rasmussen who retired May 1. Waldbillig said change of management is always fun, and he enjoys working at a hospital.

“You get up everyday and come to work and people come to you for healing,” he said. “You get to be a part of the healing process. Everybody here has a role in the patient experience. Seeing smiles on employee faces — that’s what’s in it for me.”

— Cam Bonelli is editor of the Leader’s sister newspaper, the Litchfield Independent Review.

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