Hospital, city candidates take stand at political forum
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

April 26, 2004 -- All four candidates for the two at-large seats on Hopkins County Memorial Hospital's board squared off Thursday night at Hopkins County Democratic Women's Candidate Forum.

Candidate Freddie Taylor who opposes Mayor Brad Burgin in his bid for reelection to Place 4 was the only city council candidate present for the forum held at Sulphur Springs Independent School District Administration Building. Burgin was unable to attend the meeting due to a prior commitment.

Taylor said he held his mother's lifetime commitment to serving others as an educator for well over 30 years as an example he tries to follow. He pledged to bring "Christian values and a strong work ethic and values" to the council.

"I'm so very interested in being on the city council," Taylor told the packed room. "I'm willing to do what I need to do and go wherever I need to go to do it. to serve the community."

When asked what one quality he felt separated him from the other candidate, Taylor, after a moment's consideration, cited his hunger to help others in the community.

"I think that quality is my desire to serve and know my community," Taylor said. "I won't be a paper city councilman. I'll knock on doors and ask what you need. I will help you with what you need. I'll be accessible 24 hours a day with what needs to be done, whether it be lighting, sewers, streets ... I can do that and my experience is driven from working with all people from all walks of life. I have a not only a desire to serve this community, but to take it to the next level and I believe I can do that."

In the hospital board race, candidate Alfred Glaess said during his introductory statements that it is the hospital's job to "look after the people in the area as to their health care needs."

Joe Bob Burgin, who currently serves as president of the hospital board and is seeking reelection, noted several projects and accomplishments that have been made at the hospital during his six years on the board including a new intensive care unit, new surgery wing, purchase of an open MRI, level 3 trauma center designation, initiation of a the hospital foundation, improved patient care and the hiring of Michael McAndrew as chief executive officer.

He said the hospital's next project is the construction of an office building with physicians space, outpatient facilities, and occupational therapy and aquatics, which, thanks to McAndrew, will likely be constructed without a bond issue or additional funding from tax payers.

"Whoever serves on the board has a tremendous job to the community which none of the candidates or voters should take lightly," Burgin said. "I'd be glad to serve you one more time if you'd have me."

Candidate Roy McGahee noted the hospital to be the second greatest instrument in the community, second only to education and like the school district takes care of the students educational needs it is the duty of the hospital to take care of their health needs. He said one way this could be better achieved would be through more active recruitment of younger physicians and specialists to the area to replace the increasing number of doctors reaching retirement age. He pledged to actively seek out those physicians and specialists to support the "excellent staff" already employed at the hospital if elected to the hospital board.

Hospital board candidate Ralph Preuss said that as a parent, husband of a nurse and member of the hospital's community development council he is able to "see a need not just in Sulphur Springs but all of Hopkins County to have quality health care." He said he felt his background as certified public accountant would make him a beneficial member of the board, especially when working with financial matters.

Glaess pledged to advancing the ambulance system for improved response to medical calls on the south side of Hopkins County and other areas more distant from the hospital.

Burgin said he believes one of the board's top priorities should be working with the county to help construct a substation on the south side of Interstate 30 which would include space designated for emergency medical services, recruitment of new physicians and updating the emergency room to better accommodate the 1200 patients it currently see each month instead of the 800 it was designed to see.

Preuss pledged to "rationally listen to ideas and priorities presented and make rational decisions that are best at the time" to ensure the "best health care we can offer in Hopkins County"

McGahee said recent recruitment of new pediatricians to the area so that local residents don't feel the need to drive to other towns for health care as positive stride that should be continued with recruitment of more family practice doctors and specialists so that as the current physicians, many of which are approaching age 60 or are already older, retire the area has quality doctors.

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