Laura Dean Bennett
Although his selection as CEO of Pocahontas Memorial Hospital was announced three months ago, Andrew Bair has been on the job for just four weeks.
“I love working in rural healthcare,” Bair said. “Meeting the needs of people who live in a rural environment can sometimes be challenging, but I like a challenge.”
PMH’s new CEO has been up to his neck in moving boxes at home, and they just keep coming.
So far, it’s taken three trips to get everything moved here from Kansas, and everything’s finally arrived, but that means there are moving boxes everywhere.
Bair’s wife, Robin, has made several trips, back and forth, from Kansas.
“Hopefully, this is her last trip,” Bair said.
“We just sold the house there, and she went out for a couple of weeks to take care of things.
“Sometimes it feels like we’ll be digging out from a houseful of boxes forever.”
Although it’s still a work in progress, you can tell by how Bair’s office is decorated that he’s a man whose focus is on work, wisdom, family and nature.
His bookshelves are laden with books focusing on business, healthcare and people skills.
There are family photos on a credenza and an inspirational image and pictures of the sea on the walls.
“Yes, I love the water,” he said. “No, I don’t have a boat anymore. We used to get out on the water a lot, but we sold the boat and the jet skis years ago. They were really just lures to get the kids to come home for visits – you know, a weekend here and there.
“And it worked for a while,” Bair, self-described as somewhere in his 50s, laughed.
Bair’s background, education and experience in hospital administration put him at the top of the stack of applicants for the job at PMH. His career in hospitals started before he graduated from high school.
It’s a career that’s taken him, his wife, Robin, and his family across the country.
He’s worked in Florida, Washington State, Oregon and Kansas.
Bair learned the hospital business, literally from the ground up. While still in high school, he worked in a hospital kitchen and as a groundskeeper.
He later got his R.N. degree and worked as registered nurse in a traumatic brain injury unit and then became Chief Nursing Officer.
Bair has experience in a wide variety of hospital departments. He’s worked in substance rehabilitation, acute psychiatry, emergency care and in various capacities in hospital administration.
His education includes a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master’s of Business Administration.
Before accepting the appointment as CEO of PMH, Bair spent a few years as CEO of Ellsworth County Medical Center in Ellsworth, Kansas.
He’s always had a special interest in rural healthcare, so it seems fitting that he’s brought his experience to Pocahontas Memorial.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting people here in the hospital,” he said, smiling. “Everyone’s been really friendly and helpful.
“The hardest part but the most rewarding part of this job is managing a staff. It’s all about relationships,” he explained. “It’s my job to help everyone be good at what they do.
“I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking with every person here at the hospital in the next couple of months.”
The Bair’s house in Pocahontas County sits on three acres in Edray. It’s the perfect place to enjoy life in the country.
The couple has five grown children – three daughters, ages 41, 35 and 33, and two sons, ages 37 and 36. They have seven grandchildren – the youngest is three and the oldest is nine.
Three of Bair brood came to Pocahontas County when helped with the move.
The whole family is into outdoor sports, so Pocahontas County seems to have been a good choice for the Bairs. It’s an ideal spot for four seasons of outdoor adventures for a three generation family.
Bair said he and Robin hope to have frequent visits from the whole family.
“When they come, I think the grandchildren will enjoy the swimming holes, all the hiking and the Cass train. And in the winter, of course, it would be great if they’d come for the skiing,” he added.
“We don’t have any family here, but I hope, one day, some of our family will move here to be near us.
“My son who lives in Washington State said there’s a chance he might be able to move here one day. My other son, who’s in IT, said he’d love to move here if he could find the right job.”
The Bairs both grew up in a rural environment.
“I love the outdoors and so does Robin,” Bair enthused. “Pocahontas County is just so beautiful with so much out there to explore.”
Bair was raised in Orleans, California, in the Marble Mountains – an area of Northern California that resembles the vast expanse of mountains here in Pocahontas County.
“My dad was a logger,” he said. “That area of Northern California is heavily forested and very remote.
“It’s right between two Native American reservations – the Yurok Indian Reservation and the Hoopah Valley Tribe Reservation.
“Robin grew up here in the East in the Smoky Mountains.
“Robin is so talented. She’s a retired nurse and a realtor,” Bair said. “She home schooled the kids, and she’s also an entrepreneur.
“Over the years, she’s owned a florist shop, a health store and an auto detail shop.
“Right now, she’s got her hands full getting us settled in the new house. We’re looking forward to gardening, hiking and working on the house.
“We’ll be putting the garden in next year, and we’ll have to put up a deer fence, I can see that already.
“That’s what I really enjoy – being outside,” he added.
The Bair’s immediate family includes a 14 year old, 120 lb. German Shepherd mix named Bella.
“She’s a rescue, and she’s really the most affectionate dog we’ve ever had – but absolutely the least obedient.
“She’s really the worst dog to try and walk – she’s a runner.”
So that’s something else on Bair’s list of things to do.
“I’m going to have to build a fence for Bella. “Right now, it’s all Robin and I can do to get everything unpacked and put away,” Bair admitted.
Once the boxes are unpacked, Bair wants to get involved in the community.
“I’ve always been civic-minded, and I’ve joined community groups wherever we’ve lived,” he said. “After we settle in a bit, I can see myself getting involved with a service club or two”
Bair said he will make himself available to any civic group that wants him to speak on the subject of healthcare in Pocahontas County or healthcare in general.
“We’ve been fortunate to live in some really great places in our life, but Pocahontas County is really beautiful,” Bair said. “We’re looking forward to learning our way around here.
“I really hope and pray we’ll be here for the rest of our lives. I want this to be the last stop in my career.
“I’d like to work for another ten years, and stay right here at Pocahontas Memorial, if they’ll put up with me,” he chuckled.
“I’m hoping this is our last move.”
In fact, it sounds like it better be.
“Well, let’s put it this way,” Bair said, leaning forward and smiling.
“Robin told me, ‘If you move again, you’ll be moving by yourself.’”