Sonoma Valley Health Center CEO rescinds resignation

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Three months after tendering her resignation, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center CEO Cheryl Johnson is staying after all.

Johnson originally announced her departure in May and had agreed to stay on through the end of the year. But earlier this week, she was asked by the board to rescind her resignation, and she agreed to do so.

At the time of her resignation, board chairperson Richard Gantenbein said that Johnson holds, “one of the toughest jobs in the Valley. It is grueling, grinding work in a constantly changing marketplace.” At the time, Johnson mentioned her desire to achieve more of a work-life balance as a key factor behind her planned departure.

Gantenbein said that the board had begun a broad search for Johnson’s replacement but found that the best candidates were scared off by the broad responsibilities of the job description.

“I went back to the board and said, ‘we should really figure out if there is a way to keep her,’” said Gantenbein. “We had accepted her resignation on face value and we went back to her for a long conversation about what we could do to convince her to change her mind.”

Johnson describes herself as a bit of an over-achiever in her first four years, tackling the Health Center’s move to a new facility, righting its financial position, transitioning to electronic records and launching a dental service, among other initiatives.

Gantenbein said that the board is now working with Johnson to figure out a way going forward to make the CEO sustainable without getting burned out.

“There are a handful of really hard jobs like this in the Valley,” he said. “How can we make this job viable over a long period of time?”

The answer, according to Gantenbein, seems to be some combination of additional staff – in particular plans to add a chief operating officer post – a modest increase in pay and slightly less ambitious plans for the next four years than was tackled previously.

“I love what I do,” said Johnson. “And I think we have now figured out a way for me to do it and still have a life.”

Last week, the Health Center received good news in the form of impressive Clinical and Financial Performance Measures ratings from the Health Resources and Services Administration. “It’s exciting because I feel like our staff and our patients can see and feel the progress we have been making,” said Johnson. “Having seen some real progress makes life a bit easier and it makes our work together more fun.”

The Board of Directors of Sonoma Valley Community Health Centers is comprised of a majority of members (7 of 13) who are consumers of Sonoma Valley Community Health Center’s programs and services. The other six members come from the community-at-large who are business people, service professionals and community supporters of our organization and represent the communities we serve.

The current health center board is composed of Gantenbein, Victoria Hall, Stanley Pawlak, Pamela Stephens, Michele Alba, Karen Brady, Audrey Chapman, Patricia Coleman, Martha Evans and Linda McTaggart.

“We feel that Cheryl’s continued tenure as CEO is in the best interest of all concerned,” said Gantenbein.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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