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Interviews start today with candidates for Rice Hospital's top executive position

WILLMAR -- Interviews begin today with the two finalists for the Rice Memorial Hospital chief executive position.

The candidates, William Fenske and Michael Schramm, will each undergo two intensive days of interviews and meetings with the hospital's board of directors, management team and medical staff. They will also meet with the Rice Health Foundation board and the Willmar City Council.

The hospital board is expected to make its choice March 18.

The new chief executive will replace Lawrence Massa, who left in September to become the executive director of the Minnesota Hospital Association.

A search committee selected the candidates last month from a group of four semifinalists.

Wayne Larson, chairman of the hospital board and head of the search committee, said the committee had a high-quality slate of semifinalists from which to choose.

"Of the four candidates that we interviewed, any one of them would have done a very good job," he said. "We picked the best of the four. It was a nice experience to have so many qualified candidates."

Both the finalists come with experience in health care and hospital administration. Fenske has been the chief financial officer at Rice Hospital since 2006. He was previously an executive with Agnesian Health System in Fond du Lac, Wis.

Schramm is chief executive officer at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, a position he has held since 2002. Before that, he was chief executive at Sibley Medical Center and Clinic in Arlington.

Larson said feedback will be collected from all of the groups that interview the candidates. The seven-member search committee then will meet, evaluate the responses and make a recommendation to the hospital board.

The board and the search committee have aimed to keep the process as open as possible, Larson said.

"It's a really transparent process," he said. "I think it's important that the various people who have an interest have an opportunity to make that interest know and talk to the candidates."

Whoever is hired will take over the leadership of the city's largest public entity. The Rice organization, which includes the hospital, the Rice Care Center and Rice Home Medical, has around 900 employees. Last year it had more than $90 million in net operating revenue.