Jim Coppinger names 2 to Erlanger trustees board

Jim Coppinger names 2 to Erlanger trustees board

April 26th, 2013 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

The Erlanger Baroness campus.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

After months of political sparring between state and local officials over whether Erlanger's governing board would be reorganized, County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Thursday tapped two Hamilton County residents to fill long-vacant positions on the hospital's board of trustees.

The move is a sign that the great Erlanger debate truly is tabled -- at least for now.

Coppinger nominated Tom Edd Wilson, a former Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce president, and Jack Studer, a Princeton-educated high-tech venture capitalist, to the 12-member board. The appointments must be ratified by Hamilton County commissioners.

The two will fill positions left vacant by Richard Casavant, who resigned in September after serving 18 months of his four-year appointment, and Pat Quinn, who died in December 2011.

Studer is a partner at Lamp Post Group, a local venture capital firm that nurtures startup businesses. He has a background in investment banking.

He called the appointment an honor and wrote in an email Thursday that he looks forward to "learning from and working with the rest of the board and CEO Kevin Spiegel to restore financial certainty to the hospital. ..."

Erlanger "must be well-managed and protected for today and future generations," he said.

Wilson, a career banker, is a former president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and a big name in local fundraising.

Wilson said he looks forward to working with Erlanger because "it's at a critical time in its history" and he wants to bring his years of business sense to bear on the hospital.

Citing changing health insurance laws and changing health care industries, Wilson said Erlanger must be financially sound to move forward.

Health care is not just important for residents, but it's also a big factor in economic development, Wilson said.

Coppinger said he chose Studer and Wilson because they "are strong financial leaders and have proven, respected leadership."

The mayor put off filling the two posts for months while state lawmakers worked to create legislation that would restructure Erlanger's board. The private act to trim the board to nine members and strip its political ties passed the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, but it died in March after county commissioners refused to ratify it.

The hospital is showing a $4.5 million shortfall this year. Erlanger lost $9.5 million in 2012, records show.

Commissioners are expected to vote on Coppinger's appointments during a regular scheduled meeting Wednesday.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.coms or 423-757-6481.