David Keith, right, chats with Bartlett Regional Hospital Board Member Hal Geiger during a meet-and-greet Friday at the Andrew P. Kashevaroff Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum. Keith, an Oklahoma hospital leader who spent eight years at medical centers in Anchorage as during his three-decade career in health care, was publicly named the new chief executive officer at Bartlett on Monday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Bartlett names new CEO

David Keith, an Oklahoma hospital executive with experience in Alaska, is board’s unanimous pick

In a case of “the last shall be first,” David Keith was named the new chief executive officer at Bartlett Regional Hospital on Tuesday after a long and rocky process where the former administrator at two Anchorage hospitals was the final candidate interviewed just three days earlier.

Keith – who recently retired as the CEO of McAlester Regional Health Center, Oklahoma, and is currently the chief strategy officer there — is scheduled to start at Bartlett on Aug. 15. He was bypassed when the board selected its initial three finalists earlier this year, but reconsidered when two of those finalists dropped out for what they said were personal reasons.

Bartlett board members unanimously voted for Keith, and during the public portion of a meeting Tuesday spoke highly of his resume and in-person interview conducted Saturday.

“From the beginning there were two things I wanted and one was very critical, and that was someone with good CEO Experience in a hospital, and it was current and it was positive,” said Brenda Knapp, the board’s vice president. “The other thing, and I didn’t think we’d get both of them, is if we could get somebody with prior experience in Alaska that would mean so much.”

Board member Mark Johnson said that while it’s been nearly 15 years since Keith worked in Alaska, “he has a pretty good grasp of the statewide health system in Alaska, not just how to run a hospital.”

Keith was the chief operating officer for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium/Alaska Native Medical Center from 2000 to 2004, and subsequently the assistant administrator at Providence Alaska Medical Center until 2008. He became president and CEO for McAlester in 2011, and during the past decade oversaw a variety of upgrades including a large-scale expansion of the emergency department and claimed credit for “transition(ing) a financially challenged hospital, achieving year-over-year profitability.”

“He’s going to hit the ground running,” Bartlett board member Lindy Jones said. “He has experience with hospitals of similar size and issues.”

Keith’s tenure at McAlester was also marked by two instances where contract awards were questioned, the most significant being an admitted violation of rules in 2020 for a janitorial and linen management services agreement awarded without competitive bidding. He subsequently worked with Oklahoma lawmakers on a bill that reworded what he said was confusing regulatory language that resulted in the violation, and in recent media and board interviews discussed the matter at-length.

“I was also impressed by how he was able to deal with the tough issues and answer them with transparency and candor,” Bartlett board member Lisa Petersen said.

Keith will replace Jerel Humphrey, who took over the hospital as interim CEO in October. The salary for the new permanent CEO is $400,000, which is $80,000 more than his predecessor, Rose Lawhorne, who was fired last September after only six months after an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

Iola Young, another Bartlett board member, said the process during the most recent selection project was “very different than we did last time with different results that I think we’re going to be happy with for years to come.”

“We really listened to staff, CBJ and the public, and took into account all of those feelings in this,” she said.

Keith, who acknowledged during a public meet-and-greet Friday one of his weaknesses is interacting with the media and being a public figure, said in a prepared statement issued by Bartlett on Tuesday “everyone was so welcoming and accepting during my visit.”

“The more I learn about the hospital and the city, the more excited I am to join the team and help bring about positive change,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity and I look forward to moving to Juneau and becoming part of the community.”

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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