Hilton to retire from OCH after nearly four decades in health care

OCH Administrator and CEO Richard Hilton
By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

The OCH Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees accepted the resignation letter of Administrator and CEO Richard Hilton on Tuesday, after he announced plans to retire in the coming months.

Hilton confirmed to the Starkville Daily News on Wednesday that he had planned to retire once he turned 70 years old in May.

His last official day on the job is set for July 1.

DECISIONS AND MEMORIES

Hilton said in an interview on Wednesday that he told trustees about his intention to retire at age 70 when he was first being considered for the job in 2012.

“They thought that was long enough to get established and thought the time frame wasn’t prohibitive,” Hilton said. “I said as long as my health was there and there was nothing impacting the hospital … then I would like to see if Icould make that target date work.”

Trustees officially accepted Hilton’s letter of resignation at the regular board meeting Tuesday night and will immediately begin the search for the next administrator.

If needed, Hilton said he would help with the search for his replacement and with any transition for the new hospital administrator and CEO.

Hilton said he had discussed submitting his letter in late 2017, but opted against the decision due to the looming referendum vote in November that ultimately saw county voters choose to keep the hospital locally-owned.

“I didn’t want to submit my letter with six-months notice right in the middle of the election because it would send a false message and the election didn’t need to be about me, it needed to be about the hospital,” Hilton said.

Hilton reflected on the historic election and considers it a major event for the hospital and the county.

“I needed to be here to work with the (Board of Trustees) to get us through that and go forward after that,” Hilton said.

Once the election results were in, Hilton talked with trustees and planned to begin retirement talks after the first of the year. Board of Trustees Chair Linda Breazeale said she is thankful Hilton had his hands of the wheel during the dispute over the hospital’s ownership.

“We were grateful he stayed with us through the referendum vote and helped us with the information that was requested during that time,” Breazeale said. “He’s been in the health care business for so long that he knows so much about a wide variety of issues.”

OCH Public Relations Director Mary Kathryn Kight said she felt inadequate speaking about working under Hilton because others have worked with him before she was even born.

Kight said Hilton was hired as CEO two months after she started at the hospital.

“Over the past six years, I’ve come to know him as more than just my boss, but also as a mentor and friend,” Kight said. “He’s not only one of the most intelligent people I know, but also a man of integrity who truly cares about others.”

Breazeale also said Hilton has been instrumental in discussions involving a potential affiliation for the hospital with another entity - a topic that could materialize soon.

“He researches every issue to its fullest and provides that information to the board, so we are well-informed and prepared for all of the consideration,” she said.

Hilton has agreed to stay on at the hospital as long as necessary to assist with the transition process.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Once his retirement is official, Hilton looks forward to spending quality time with his wife, La Rue, their seven children and 14 grandchildren.

“You can never make up for lost time with your family,” Hilton said. “All I can do is the best I can to be there without a clock saying I have to leave.”

The theme of “doing your best” has been a recurring one in Hilton’s life, one that he credits his mother for.

His mother Pauline Hilton would often ask him if he had done his best, so much so it changed the way he handled life into the present day.

“I got so used to it,” Hilton said. “I started asking myself that. ‘Have you done your best?’”

Born to parents Maurice and Pauline Hilton in a house - not a hospital - in East Prairie, Missouri almost 70 years ago, Richard Hilton was one of 10 children.

Hilton credits both of his late parents as a driving force in his life, instilling in him the importance of work ethic and an education.

As he begins to reflect on his career and look forward to time with his family, Hilton also plans to enjoy woodworking, reconnecting with old friends, reading and St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball, in addition to watching his grandchildren play the game.

“Baseball is one of my first loves,” Hilton said. “All my boys played ball and I have my grandkids coming up and I will help them any way I can.”

He beamed talking about the simple act of being able to attend his grandchildren’s baseball games.

“They are spread out and they all want their granddad there,” Hilton said.

Hilton first came to the hospital as the associate administrator/chief financial officer in May 1983.

The Missouri native, in February 2012, was named administrator/CEO by the hospital’s Board of Trustees.

In addition to his work at the hospital, Hilton is also on the board of directors of the Greater Starkville Partnership Development and is a member of the Starkville Rotary Club.

“I want to be involved where it would be beneficial,” Hilton said. “Starkville is a great place to live, with a focus on improving the quality of life here. If I can be of help in seeing that continue in whatever way the Partnership would want, I will do that.”

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