Thank You Kent Slater
He grew up on a farm near Augusta, joined the Army and served in Vietnam, was elected for two terms as a Republican in the Illinois House of Representatives, and later built a distinguished career as a judge. No matter the job title, Kent Slater has represented the residents of Illinois with distinction and honor. As he wraps up a 12-year tenure with the McDonough District Hospital Board of Directors – including seven years as the Board Chairman – it’s no surprise that Slater brought that same attitude and work ethic to MDH.
“I had retired from the bench in December 2006 and was looking for something. I was interested in the Board. I talked with former County Board Chairman Charles Gilbert. He recommended me to Scott Schwerer, who was at that point Chairman of the McDonough County Board. Scott called and asked me if I would be interested in serving, and I indicated I would be,” said Slater.
A 1963 graduate of Augusta High School, Slater stayed out of college for a year between high school graduation and enrolling at the University of Illinois to serve as the State President of the Illinois FFA.
He earned his U of I bachelor’s degree in 1968 from the College of Agriculture. After a brief tenure working at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus, Slater joined the United States Army in February 1969.
“I went through basic training, AIT, Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the infantry,” said Slater. “I served in Vietnam. When I returned, I entered the John Marshall Law School in Chicago and graduated from there in 1975.”
He returned to the Macomb area and practiced law locally for nine years before making a run at election for the Illinois House.
“In 1984 I ran for and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives where I served two terms as a Republican. In 1988 I ran for and was elected to the 9th Judicial Circuit of Illinois,” stated Slater. “In 1990 I ran for and was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court 3rd District which met in Ottawa. I served there for 16 years.”
When he officially began his duties with the MDH Board in 2007, the one thing that surprised Slater the most was the complexity.
“I was surprised how large the organization was - in terms of impact in the community and number of employees, the amount of money involved, and the complexity of the entire hospital operation,” said Slater. “The money involved in health care is elusive. As much as an insurance company is involved, or the government is involved, private pay is involved, deductibles are involved, different types of services obviously merit different type of pay… all that’s complicated and that is only a small portion of it.”
Following the retirement of Dr. Don Dexter as Chair of the Board, Slater was elected by the MDH Board to take over the role. He served during one of the more dynamic times in organization history.
“MDH has changed a great deal,” said Slater. “We’ve had expansion and renovation of the physical plant. Rooms were remodeled. The Emergency Room was redone. Senior Behavioral Health has been added on. The Bushnell Clinic was built. Renovations were made to accommodate new physician practices.
“We built the Convenient Care clinic and also created during my period of time on the Board the Hospitalist program. We created the medical group where we have actually employed a number of physicians in order to provide necessary primary care for the community. We also have the helicopter service and we have outsourced the ambulance service. There have been personnel changes, from (former Chief Executive Officers) Mr. (Steve) Hopper to Mr. (Kenny) Boyd and now to an interim (in Brian E. Dietz). With those changes MDH has advanced… I wouldn’t say there are changes in philosophy or mission, but just in the way those things get carried out. The important thing as far as I was concerned was that we have quality health care for the community,” emphasized Slater.
Twelve years associated with MDH provided Slater with many memories.
“The most memorable thing is hiring Mr. (Kenny) Boyd and working with him throughout his tenure here. Boyd really provided leadership that propelled the hospital forward. We would not be where we are at today without having had him here for the period of seven years as our CEO,” said Slater. “The CEO is really and truly the face of the hospital. He provides direction for the hospital. I think that Boyd did a good job in that respect, a very good job.”
Slater’s career has been one of leadership and service. Looking at his time on the MDH Board of Directors, especially as Chairperson, one can see how he carried out that philosophy, especially dealing with the public.
“I think the Board needs to be a sounding board for the community. As the community may have concerns, or individual persons may have difficulty with the hospital or with whatever problem might occur, those things get voiced to the Board. The Board can hopefully deal with them in a fashion that results in positive action for the hospital and improvement of the facility for the community,” said Slater.
As his tenure on the Board concludes, the former State Representative and Judge is looking forward to more time with his wife Penny (former Director of the Macomb Chamber of Commerce), his daughter and two grandkids, and spending time on his grandparents’ former farm near Augusta which he now owns.
“I’m going to miss the monthly meetings, the special meetings, the committee meetings, it really requires a considerable amount of time to be an effective member of the Board,” said Slater. “Scott Clauson comes on the Board as a new member and because of his financial background, he really has taken to the issues before the Board. He understands it, in a short period of time, better than most of us who have been around a lot longer. Mr. (Noel) Oliver brings his experience in public safety, that’s helpful. Dr. Rick Iverson of course because he’s a physician and practiced in this community, he’s just a tremendous asset as far as the Board is concerned. That is not to belittle anyone else’s contributions.
“I’ll miss the comradery that I developed with fellow Board members and with hospital staff. One of the nice things about our Board, we are fairly well distributed throughout the county, in as much as we had people from Colchester, Industry, Bushnell, Blandinsville, and Macomb. I think we’ve pretty much always had someone from WIU. People who have been on this Board are significant contributors to McDonough County and to the Macomb community. I am proud to have had the opportunity to have served,” said Slater.
Board Chairman Dr. Rick Iverson presents a plaque to former Chair and outgoing Board member Kent Slater, honoring Slater for his years of service.