This is #7 in my series of most unforgettable people. I do know Margaret and she serves as a constant inspiration to not only me, but the many others that she has influenced in her life. She will probably be very unhappy with me by casting a spotlight on her and our almost 20 year friendship, but she is worth noting and also very deserving of praise.
I first met Margaret in 1996 when she moved to Steamboat Springs, CO, to become the CEO of the hospital. I had already been there for 3 years, having moved to town in 1993 from Seattle, WA. I was actively engaged as a consultant for non-profits at that time; mostly located in Steamboat, and also served as a volunteer on many local non-profit boards.
When I first moved to town, I introduced myself to several key people in the community as a way of networking and finding out how all of the moving parts and pieces fit together in this small community of less than 10,000 people. One of these was the president of the largest local bank and he was also the chair of the hospital board. We had a short, but informative meeting and I asked him if there a possibility that the 1950-era hospital might need assistance in the event that a new hospital was built. He responded that it was unlikely that a new hospital would be built, as some slight remodeling would most likely serve the current facility very well. (I will come back to this a little later.)
I received a call from the hospital PR person in early 1996, inquiring whether I would come and meet with Margaret to discuss the feasibility of building a new hospital for the community. When we met, I was immediately struck by her presence, intellect, energy, and passion for healthcare. Margaret was (and is still) exceptional in engaging people with her beliefs and excitement for whatever she is doing, thereby enlisting instant support from a broad range of people.
When I relayed my earlier conversation in 1993 with the chairman of the hospital board, she already knew the current feeling about going into debt to build a new facility, but she wanted to move ahead regardless of the slow process of bringing people around to what really made sense for the healthcare needs of the community. I asked her how she thought she could do that and she replied that we would not just be building a new hospital, but, because of the geography of NW Colorado, we would actually be building a regional medical center!
Fast forward to groundbreaking for the new Yampa Valley Medical Center in February 1998 and the new hospital opened on November 21, 1999. The road to that first shovel full of dirt in 1998 was long and difficult at times, but as I came to know and appreciate Margaret more and more, she epitomizes the definition of a true leader - Margaret takes people where they don’t think they want to go, but where they really need to go.
In the years since that new hospital opened in 1999, I have been privileged to work with Margaret on several occasions in several locales, both here in Colorado and in California. No matter where she is, she is one of the most courageous leaders that I know, pushing organizations and people forward, oftentimes regardless of the consequences to her own career, simply because it is the right thing to do. I fully expect that Margaret will always be this way and I sure hope she never changes – there are too few real leaders in this day and age and she is certainly one of the best.