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LVMC CEO Jim Raggio 2018

Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Jim Raggio announced Thursday that he is set to retire, effective June 30.

Lompoc Valley Medical Center CEO Jim Raggio, who has held the hospital’s top post for the past 20 years, has announced his intention to retire.

Raggio, who was first employed at the Lompoc hospital in 1980 and took over as the health care district’s top executive in 1998, will step down effective June 30. The hospital publicly revealed his decision Friday.

Raggio, who will turn 66 in March, said Friday that the timing felt right to walk away this year. He had been operating under a series of four-year contracts — which is the longest term allowed for a health care district — and the most recent of those contracts is set to expire this summer.

Raggio said he likely could have received another four-year deal but decided against pursuing it.

“It was a tough decision; I didn’t take it lightly,” he said of retirement. “My wife and I sat down and talked a lot about what’s in the future, with grandkids and kids, and we just decided that the timing was right now.”

In a message to the LVMC board of directors, Raggio said that it was with the “utmost sense of pride and gratitude” that he was announcing his retirement.

“Working at Lompoc Valley Medical Center for the past 35 years has been a privilege and an honor,” he said. “As chief executive officer, I have been blessed with a governing board solely focused on what is best for the community and who has allowed staff to do our jobs but always maintained appropriate oversight.

“Together, along with our extraordinary staff and medical staff, we have facilitated a number of accomplishments over the past 20 years and I am very proud to have played a role in LVMC’s success.”

Raggio’s first job at LVMC was in 1980 as manager of the clinical laboratory, according to a hospital spokeswoman. He was promoted in 1987 to director of clinical services. He left the district in 1995 to become administrator of a multispecialty medical group in Lompoc and returned to LVMC in 1998 as CEO.

During his tenure, Raggio guided the health care district through unprecedented growth and change, including a bond election and the opening of the new Lompoc Valley Medical Center facility in 2010.

When asked to cite some of his personal highlights, Raggio pointed to what he felt was exceptional nursing service, strong leadership throughout the organization and the quality of the staff with whom he worked closely to guide the hospital over the past 20 years.

“Most importantly, I think there’s just some extremely talented people that are here and that’s pretty much what I’m most proud of,” he said. “It takes good people to run a good facility, and we just have some exceptional staff that’s here.”

He also oversaw the construction and opening of the Champion Center in 2014. That facility was planned to treat people battling drug and alcohol addictions, but the center never met its fiscal targets and was closed in June 2017 after losing about $3 million per year, Raggio reported.

Raggio called the Champion Center’s failure the “biggest disappointment” of his career.

While he acknowledged Friday that the center was a misstep, he said that he doesn't have any regrets about the way it was handled.

"We did everything humanly possible to make that facility viable," he said. "It was just, in retrospect, something that wasn’t as feasible as it appeared to us (to be). It just didn’t pencil out."

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Still, Raggio said he is heartened by the thankful letters he said he has received from clients who were treated at the center. 

“It’s a very much-needed service, but mental health and addiction services are very much problematic areas right now from a funding standpoint," he said.

Despite that setback, he said he was still proud of the renovations done to the Champion Center site, which had previously been home to the city's old hospital, and suggested that a new operation could start up there soon.

"We really took that old hospital and really put something very beautiful in that neighborhood," he said. "We are in discussions with some individuals to take it over and, hopefully, in the near future we can see that it comes back to life again."

In addition to his work with LVMC, Raggio also serves on the California Hospital Association board of directors and is president of the District Hospital Leadership Forum, which seeks to improve district hospitals’ access to public funding.

Raggio said Friday that he has already told the LVMC board members that he will stay on as long as they need if they are unable to find his successor by June 30.

As for that eventual transition of power, Raggio said he'll assist the new CEO "as much as I’m requested to.”

“As much as they want, I will help out,” he said. “I’m always available for questions. I’m not leaving the community, so I’ll always be around to help.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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