Chief Executive Officer, Desert Healthcare District

The Client

Health care districts originated in the mid-1940s as a response to a shortage of acute care hospitals in California, as well as minimal access to health care services in rural parts of the state. State legislators responded by enacting what is now known as the Local Health Care District Law. This law authorized communities to form special districts in order to meet local health care needs by building and operating hospitals and other health care facilities. The Desert Healthcare District receives an allocation of property taxes from the Riverside County General Fund to facilitate the operations of the District.

Created in 1948, the Desert Healthcare District’s original mission was to provide hospital services to residents of Desert Hot Springs, Thousand Palms, Palms Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert (west of Cook Street). The District’s service area encompasses 457 square miles and extends into Mountain Center.

Since the District’s inception, it has been directed by a board of five members elected by residents of the communities served. In the early days, the District board was responsible for building Desert Hospital, now known as Desert Regional Medical Center. Once the hospital opened, board members assumed oversight responsibility for its operations. In 1997, the board voted to lease the hospital to Tenet Health Systems for 30 years.

The Desert Healthcare District is the parent of Desert Healthcare Foundation. The Foundation was originally formed in 1967 to support the activities of Desert Regional Medical Center and had its own separate board of directors. In 1997, when the Directors of the District voted to lease Desert Regional Medical Center to Tenet Health Systems to operate as a for-profit medical facility, the Foundation was repurposed to focus on supporting programs addressing critical gaps in healthcare services to residents of the Coachella Valley. In 2003, the Foundation board was dissolved and the District board assumed responsibility.

With an annual operating budget of roughly $9 million, the District has allocated more than $3 million each year since 1998 for grants and other programs. Grant funding is linked to fulfillment of the District’s strategic plan, which focuses on enhancing the health of its residents. Funding has been provided for such programs as the construction of The Wellness Park, a five acre fitness park adjacent to Desert Regional Medical Center, promoting enrollment by local residents in the Affordable Care Act and Get Tested Coachella Valley, a community-wide HIV testing program. Other funding has supported food programs and other health initiatives to include development of health and wellness centers in Desert Hot Springs, which has removed the area from a medically underserved area.

The Mission

The mission of DHCD is to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents.

The Vision

The vision of DCHD is to be a leader in advancing a healthier community and to enhance the quality of life for all District residents across their lifespan.

Strategic Goals

The strategic goals of DCHD are to:

  • Ensure access to high quality hospital care at Desert Regional Medical Center.
  • Support the practices and policy changes needed to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve health of all groups within the Coachella Valley.
  • Create social and physical environments that promote good health for all groups.
  • Promote and support healthy development and healthy behaviors across all life stages.
  • Increase the resources and revenues of the District to help achieve its goals and objectives.

The Position

The Chief Executive Officer reports to the five-person elected Board of Directors, each of whom serves a four year term. The CEO supervises a $9 million annual operating budget and a 5 person staff with the following direct reports: Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer, Chief Grants Officer, Director of Projects/Programs & Analytics, and Director of Community Relations.

In partnership with the Board of Directors, the major role of the CEO is to provide leadership and guidance in order to achieve the agency’s mission, strategy, and annual goals and objectives.

The District Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for the development of all operational policies for both the District and Desert Healthcare Foundation, internal grant making procedures, research to support grant making initiatives, and directing of all administrative and program activities of the District which includes, but is not limited to, the effective use of financial resources, maintenance of financial record systems, direction and supervision of all communications with grantees and the publics, some of which include newsletters, community education symposia, press releases, and annual reports.

In addition to the Desert Healthcare District, the CEO also serves as the CEO of the Desert Healthcare Foundation, a non-profit organization, designed to facilitate projects and programs to serve healthcare across the Coachella Valley.

Specifically, the CEO oversees and is responsible for the following:

  • Setting a new direction for the Desert Healthcare District
  • Establishing and maintaining a working relationship with the CEO of Desert Regional Medical Center to develop common initiatives to serve the District Community
  • Engaging in the process of the future hospital lease renewal
  • Developing and maintaining community development as healthcare needs expand into the entire Coachella Valley
  • Developing and maintaining an effective organizational structure and staffing plan
  • Creating links with community constituents so the highest degree of impact can be achieved through the most effective use of resources
  • Developing and maintaining a high level of awareness of the needs of the community through regular assessment and evaluation of the relative needs
  • Overall financial management of the organization – development of annual budget, prudent management of resources and regular reporting to the Board on the organization’s fiscal status
  • Overseeing development of strategic planning process in partnership with the Board and overseeing implementation of the plan
  • Ensuring that appropriate methods, systems and procedures are in place to review programs and monitor their effectiveness
  • Maintaining and developing the organization’s external relations by communicating the organization’s mission and achievements effectively to stakeholders and policy makers
  • Actively participating in community, state and national health grant making issues and activities to learn, understand and respond to the needs of those being served
  • Orchestrating the various efforts so that a team orientation is developed and both Board members and staff feel involved, committed, and have appropriate access and input; and
  • Ensuring that each member of the Board is well-informed with respect to the Board’s responsibilities and District/Foundation activities
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships with city, county, state, and other public agency officials
  • Building collaborative relationships with the City of Palm Springs, the California Endowment and other funders where there are common interests and objectives
  • Remaining in tune with state legislation that affects healthcare districts.
  • Overseeing the compliance with the hospital lease.

Professional Requirements

The ideal candidate will have a minimum of 10-15 years of healthcare experience as a senior executive with another healthcare district, a public health department, public hospital, large healthcare system or other public authority. An understanding of the Brown Act, governmental policy, and its implications for the management of a public entity is important. The successful candidate will possess an applicable BS/BA college degree or higher with emphasis in health services, public administration or business administration or equivalent educational emphasis. The skill and political acumen necessary to work effectively with an elected board and sometimes competing agendas is critical for success. Healthcare policy experience, coalition building and community relations skills are essential.

The CEO should be an experienced coach, mentor and cheer leader for a dedicated and hardworking staff. The ability to represent the Desert Healthcare District before elected officials, regulators and the public in large and small settings is required.

The successful candidate will be a thoughtful and prudent steward of the organization’s financial resources, a good strategic planner and a resourceful facilitator of internal and external funds to support the Foundation’s healthcare initiatives.

Experience with — and knowledge of — the desert communities, leadership and politics, while not required, would be a significant advantage.

Personal Characteristics

The candidate our client is seeking will be a strong leader with excellent interpersonal skills and a modicum of humility. A passion for providing quality healthcare to the underserved is a key qualifier. The ability to organize and prioritize a sometimes heavy workload is essential.

We are seeking a visionary leader who can inspire the board and staff and create community awareness of the important work of the Desert Healthcare District. Consensus building and conflict resolution skills around decisions critical for the agency’s future are required.

A strong work ethic, leadership by example and management by empowerment are the characteristics needed for success. The ability to perform under pressure, think on one’s feet and respond effectively to opportunity as well as crisis will ensure a bright future.

The Challenges

There are two important challenges facing the Desert Healthcare District: the future hospital lease expiration in 2027 of Desert Regional Medical Center, which must be renewed and approved by the voters; and the potential eastern expansion of the Desert Healthcare District boundaries to support some of the Coachella Valley’s most underserved communities. An annual community needs assessment will be completed in September. Potential expansion of the district would require the approval of the state legislature to be placed on the ballot and approved by voters, and the mechanism for funding such an expansion with taxpayer dollars or some other source of revenue must be determined.


The salary offer will be dependent on qualifications, background and experience. The annual salary range is $160,000 – $200,000 and depends on qualifications. This position is contracted directly with the Board of Directors and all aspects of the employment are subject to the negotiations. The District anticipates offering the following outstanding benefits package through the contract:

Retirement – District employees participate in a defined contribution 457(b) program with up to an 8% match component allowed by the District to a 401(a) plan.

Health, Dental and Vision Care – The District provides its employees and their dependents health, dental, and vision care insurance plans. Medical coverage is paid entirely by the District subject to medical plan coverage and policy limits. Delta Dental plan coverage is $1500 per year for covered benefits and VSP plan provides for annual one-time eye exam and discount on eye wear.

Life and Disability Insurance – Regular full-time employees receive a life insurance policy in an amount not to exceed $125,000. Short and long-term disability insurance premiums are covered by the District.

Leaves – Leaves (Vacation and Sick) amounts will be negotiated with the Board of Directors upon appointment.

Additional Benefits – The Board may provide a variety of other benefits including such items as cell phone and auto allowance. These benefits may be negotiated within the CEO contract with the Board of Directors.


The leadership of the Desert Healthcare District is an opportunity to address some of the most pressing healthcare challenges of the local community. Homelessness, poverty and lack of access to quality care continue to be a problem in a fast growing network of desert cities with a significant elderly demographic and minority populations. The CEO will have the satisfaction of improving the lives and overall health of a large segment of the Coachella Valley’s residents and of contributing to an issue of profound humanitarian merit.


To apply, please send a résumé and cover letter via e-mail or fax to:

Joseph McCormack, Managing Partner
Michelle Kristel, Partner
1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 110-202
Palm Springs, CA 92264
Tel 323.549.9200
Fax 323.549.9222