LIMA – Twenty-five years ago, long before Bob Baxter ever heard of St. Rita’s Medical Center or Lima, he was a 21-year-old outdoor electric sign salesman in his home state of South Dakota.
Fresh out of college and looking to bust into the business world, Baxter gave it a whirl.
“I just hated it. After one year, I told myself I would give it one more year to see if I would find a passion here,” he said.
He never did.
Next came some soul searching, a return to college and two master’s degrees, in hospital administration and business administration.
“I re-evaluated my priorities and looked for a sense of purpose,” he said. “I was really looking for something that would complement a sense of purpose with the business background.”
Baxter began his career in the hospital industry and quickly became a rising star. He likes to credit being around a lot of good people, mixed with some great opportunities for his success.
But the story on how he ended up in Lima is nearly as unique as his path to the hospital administration field.
Just over three years ago, Baxter was working as a chief operating officer for Rapid City Regional Hospital. He just completed an exhausting job interview process with another hospital for a chief executive officer job, and someone else was chosen.
A recruiter he had known for years called him about the St. Rita’s job, and his first reaction was to say no.
“I told him I was absolutely not interested. These processes are exhausting, a lot of trips and meeting people,” he said.
The recruiter was persistent and talked him into applying for a job in Lima, a city he had never heard of, he said.
But he made his way to Lima, landed the role as president and CEO of St. Rita’s. In the process, the city actually sold itself to Baxter.
“Once I came out here, I fell in love with both the community and organization,” he said.
From a professional standpoint, Baxter said the medical and professional staff, as well as the organization, was very impressive. The hospital was really patient-centric, which doesn’t happen everywhere.
He quickly knew he found a home.
At 46, Baxter now calls Lima home and sees himself at St. Rita’s 10 years from now. He jokes that he will have to pay for college or weddings for his four daughters, so he has not choice. The real truth is he just loves his job and loves Lima.
And as it turns out, that lack of success as an outdoor electronic sign salesman led to the greatest professional success he could ever imagine.