John Gardner, currently CEO at Yuma District Hospital in Yuma, Colorado, will start work as the Telluride Hospital District’s CEO in June. [Courtesy photo]


A new face will guide the Telluride Hospital District as it builds a new 40,000-square-foot regional medical center, either at the chosen site in Mountain Village or elsewhere. John Gardner, chief executive officer at Yuma District Hospital in Yuma, Colorado, was offered the head job in Telluride by the hospital district board last week and will take over on or around June 6. 

“I’ve been involved in a lot of construction projects, and the thought of being involved in the development of a new facility from the beginning was exciting,” Gardner said from his Yuma office Tuesday. “I was really impressed with the medical staff. Throw in the Telluride environment on top of all that, and how could I say no?”

Gardner will take over from Gordon Reichard, who announced his retirement in February. Gardner has a bachelors degree in economics and a masters in health administration from the University of Colorado. He has been CEO in Yuma since 2007, and previously worked in management for the Grand River Hospital District in Rifle, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver and hospitals in Virginia and Nebraska, where he oversaw a $50 million expansion project. He is 65 years old and has a wife and three grown children.

His recent visits for interviews with the hospital district board and search committee weren’t his first time in Telluride.

“Back in 1972 or ’73, after a couple of failed attempts to climb El Diente, we ventured down to Telluride,” he said. “It’s changed a lot since then.”

Gardner said he’s already started looking into the hospital district’s land dilemma. The board is currently seeking a wetlands mitigation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to build a new medical center at their preferred site adjacent to Mountain Village Town Hall. 

“This will be a big change from the flatlands of eastern Colorado,” he said. “There’s a lot more land (there) than there is in Telluride.”

In addition to scarce land, the new medical center will have to contend with a changing healthcare industry, Gardner said.

“The healthcare industry is going through all kinds of transition, from how we get paid for our services to how we deliver them, and to be involved in creating a new facility that responds to that new way of doing business is very intriguing,” he said. 

The group who will serve as Gardner’s boss also may change in coming weeks. Ballots for the upcoming Telluride Hospital District Board of Directors election will be sent out April 18 and must be postmarked by May 3. Three board members — current chair Larry Mallard, Richard Betts and Davis Fansler — are running for reelection, and Robert Pinkert, Jennifer Fox and Shari Seay Mitchell are also running for the three seats. There are two four-year terms which Mallard, Fansler and Fox are vying for. Betts, Mitchell and Pinkert are standing for the open two-year term seat.