(Editor’s note: This article and photos featuring alumna and former UIU faculty member Janette Simon ’83 is posted with permission of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and staff writer Mark Mahoney.)
HARTLEY — Janette Simon is ready to help care for people in “The City with a Heart.”
The 59-year-old is the new administrator of the Community Memorial Health Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Hartley.
Simon, whose first day on the job for the nonprofit community-owned center was Jan. 6, said people in the O’Brien County city of nearly 1,600 have been “very welcoming” to her.
“Everyone’s been just great,” she said. “I’m a little overwhelmed trying to get up to speed.”
Simon mentioned what she has enjoyed about her new position so far.
“Meeting new people,” she said. “I’m liking how the community really has a vested interest in their care center. That’s really amazing and nice.”
Examples of that are people who volunteer at the facility as well as donations and kind words the center has received during its history that dates back to 1960.
“The kind words come from the long-standing good reputation that they’ve had with quality care and consistent staff always lends itself to that,” Simon said.
One example of the facility having consistent staff is the person Simon replaced as the center’s administrator.
Jeannine Bunge retired in November after having served as the facility’s administrator for about 38 years.
Even with Bunge’s retirement, the center still has many other longtime staff members among its approximately 100 employees.
“The thing about the longevity of the staff is that they appear to be open to new ideas and change, so they’re not set in their ways where it’s been an obstacle for me at all,” Simon said.
The facility’s seven-member board of directors has been the same way.
“They’ve been very supportive and excited with the new ideas,” Simon said.
She talked about the center collaborating with the Hartley Public Library.
“We want to start a book club here and have a library nook and a community garden,” Simon said.
She mentioned another idea she has for the facility.
“I want to get to know the service area enough to know what services are lacking, so that we offer the services that the population needs,” Simon said.
The center is home to a 68-bed nursing home, 16 assisted-living apartments, a memory care unit, rehabilitation services, hospice services, restorative care and various outpatient therapies.
The facility shares its building with MercyOne Hartley Family Medicine Clinic.
“Kind of a unique feature for us is that we have a clinic,” Simon said. “We have a doctor on site most regular hours of operation.”
That physician is Dr. Soe Nyunt, who practices family medicine and is the center’s medical director.
The facility also brings in dentistry, foot-care and hair-care services for its residents.
“We’re like a little medical Mecca,” Simon said. “Really, truly we are.
“It’s amazing for the small town that we are that we have the services to offer people without having to leave the building,” she said.
The main reason she left her job as the administrator of the Guttenberg Care Center in northeast Iowa for the Hartley position was because of her husband, Michael.
He owns an agricultural business called .5 Inspections, which mostly does grain monitoring.
“We had an empty nest and my husband travels the western part of Iowa and the Dakotas, so it’s closer to his territory,” Simon said.
“He goes wherever the clients are,” she said. “He has a pocket in Canada and then a big pocket in Wisconsin.”
She also applied for the Hartley job because of the center’s track record for quality of care that has been recognized at the federal and state levels.
The native of Oelwein, a northeast Iowa city of nearly 6,000, noted she feels at home in a rural setting and enjoys working in a busy environment.
“I like it when there are a lot of plates that are spinning and a lot of ideas and projects that are in the works,” she said.
“I just like to see what it is new we can do to offer our customers and really our service area,” she said.
AT A GLANCE:
Name: Janette Simon
Position: Administrator of Community Memorial Health Center in Hartley
Start date: Jan. 6
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, 1983; master’s degree in counseling from University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, 1984; associate degree in nursing home administration from Des Moines Area Community College, 1986; master’s degree in higher education administration from Drake University in Des Moines, 1997; doctorate in educational leadership from Drake University, 2003.
Experience: Four years as grief counselor for Brant-Kerns-Jamison Funeral Home in Oelwein; three years as director of Hospice of Buchanan County; three years as administrator of Grandview Care Center in Oelwein; 11 years as assistant professor of psychology at Upper Iowa University in Fayette; 15 years as administrator of Guttenberg Care Center, including 13 years as adjunct professor of psychology at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar and Peosta.
Family: Husband, Michael; six children; four grandchildren.
Interests: Camping, kayaking, biking, hiking, traveling, gardening, reading, raising her 11-month-old dog Theodore Roosevelt, a Shih Tzu-Bichon Frise mix.