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Search begins for new Vets Home superintendent

The search is on for the next superintendent of the Washington Veteran’s Home in Retsil.

And John E. Lee, the agency director, thinks qualified candidates for the job could be living nearby.

Perhaps, Lee said, “some retired person or some Navy corpsman getting ready to retire” would have the skills to compete for the job.

“They must be a veteran that has honorably served their country,” he said. “I would very much appreciate it if they had a background in geriatrics or long-term care.”

However, he said, he’s willing to consider hiring someone who’s not a licensed nursing home administrator.

“If the best person is not licensed,” he said, “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

The last home’s superintendent, Al Knight, didn’t have the license, and he stayed for about three years.

The superintendent before Knight lasted only 10 months.

When asked how many superintendents the veteran’s home has had in the past 10 years, Lee said that he didn’t know.

He also was unwilling to estimate how long they’d stayed on average.

“I don’t think there’s any trend there to be concerned about,” he added, since the job is difficult.

“It’s like being the mayor of a small community,” he said. “It’s quite a complex operation.”

The superintendent oversees about 300 staff people, who perform a wide variety of jobs.

They, for example, prepare multiple meals each day, fix broken equipment, take veterans to their medical appointments.

Knight completed a 1,500-hour on-the-job training program that lasted 18 months and included rotations on all shifts and in each department in the home.

Then, he failed the nursing home administrator’s test twice, before passing.

Knight’s education includes a bachelor’s degrees in recreation and sociology from Missouri State University, a master’s degree in business management from Central Michigan University and another master’s degree in healthcare administration from Chapman University in California.

He previously served as an Army colonel responsible for 3,000 soldiers.

Knight took over the job at Retsil in March 2008, following the unexpected resignation of Richard Shreder, who held the job for only 10 months.

Lee initially said Shreder resigned because of his commute to Seattle.

Later, though, Lee said that he’d asked Shreder to resign and didn’t give a reason.

Knight said, that he retired to spend more time with his family.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from the Washington Veterans Home,” he wrote. “I’ve reached the realization that my energies are needed with my family, and I cannot continue to serve the staff and residents of the Veterans Home at the level they expect and deserve.”

Other new faces at the Veteran’s Home include Dax Dowling, the associate superintendent and Susan Kergil, nursing director.

The salary for the position has been previously listed between $74,000 to $89,000, but Lee said that the new superintendent can expect a salary around $90,000 per year.

Lee said that he doubts he’ll have trouble finding a replacement for Knight, due to the economy.

“We have a job opening for a human resources director,” he said, “and we have a huge number of applicants.”

“I’m optimistic. I’m not concerned about it.”

Interested applicants can call John directly, he said, at 360-725-2152 or they can e-mail a copy of their resume to john@dva.wa.gov.

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