Former hospital leader dies [UPDATED]Published 11:27am Monday, July 22, 2013 Updated 11:31am Monday, July 22, 2013
For more than 40 years, Ed Mehl dedicated his life to guiding the health care community in Fergus Falls. He was known as a dutiful hospital administrator, but for those knew him well, he was a personable man who cared deeply for his community.
“He was a really good guy and just an excellent hospital administrator,” said Gary Spies, who served on the hospital’s board of directors for Mehl’s entire career. “He is really the guy who made our hospital what it is today. The entire community owes him a debt for what we have today.”
Mehl, who started working for Lake Region Healthcare in the late 1970s, brought a personal touch to his work and knew the hospital’s importance for patients and also for its employees. He took over as administrator and CEO in 1981. Spies said that while helping to form Lake Region into the regional facility it is today, Mehl was dedicated to the economic development of the community as well.
“He was good at the day-to-day stuff, but he was a visionary,” he said. “He made the decisions that allowed our hospital to grow. At the time, it needed difficult decisions and he was the one who made them.”
Outside of the office, Spies said he grew close to Mehl and that his caring nature in his work carried over from his personal life.
“He was a good friend,” he said. “If he was your friend, he’d do anything in his life to help you. He was as good as they come.”
Solveig Halbakken, who worked with Mehl for more than 15 years as a member of the board, took note of his personal goodwill in their work together.
“Ed was a gifted administrator that did the best for all the people under his care, both patients and his employees,” she said. “I recall that often while in discussions he reminded people that patients came first.”
While running a hospital is a difficult job, Halbakken said patients and employees were on Mehl’s mind when he made decisions. Mehl also gave a wealth of support to the hospital auxiliary, which Halbakken said wasn’t always the case for other hospitals. At each level, from employees to the board of directors, Mehl worked closely to better the lives of many people.
“As an administrator, he knew his employees and, often, their families,” she said. “You would walk through the hospital and he would know people by name.”
That personal work with employees created an atmosphere of respect for the staff in the hospital. While their work was often difficult, Mehl made each day and task as fun as he could.
“Ed was a leader who had the unique ability to know when to be the boss and when to be a friend,” said Maureen McGovern, director of health information management. “I always felt like we worked with him and not for him. He showed respect and support for the staff and received the same from us as well.”
“It didn’t matter what your job was, he had great respect for every member of the staff and the team,” said Ginny Adams, vice president of performance excellence. “He just made every staff member feel important and respected.”
With his legacy carried on in the community, his personal care lives on each day among the hospital staff and all those who work to better health care in Fergus Falls.
“He was fun,” said McGovern. “He was just fun to work with and he made this a good, positive place to work.”