November 26, 2022
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Community Memorial CEO to retire

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Gary Wilde, who led Community Memorial Health System through a $280 million, seven-year project to build a new hospital in Ventura, will retire later this year as president and CEO of the nonprofit health care provider.

Wilde, 66, came to Community Memorial Hospital in 2004 from Cottage Health System in Santa Barbara. The next year, Community Memorial Health System was born, when Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura merged with Ojai Valley Community Hospital. The system also includes a skilled nursing facility at Ojai Valley Community Hospital and a network of health care clinics throughout western Ventura County.

Community Memorial announced his pending retirement on April 8.

Gary Wilde

“It has been an honor to work with the dedicated physicians and staff at Community Memorial Health System for these past 18 years and I am incredibly grateful for the support from our community over the years,” Wilde said in the news release announcing his retirement. “While I will continue to lead the organization over the next several months, I am looking forward to possibly teaching, going on humanitarian missions, and spending more time with my family.”

At least until he led Community Memorial through the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilde’s biggest task as CEO was overseeing the construction of a new, 242-bed hospital building that opened in 2018.

Community Memorial broke ground on the new hospital in 2011, in order to replace its out-of-date, 50-year-old building in midtown Ventura. In addition to bringing the hospital up to current seismic standards, the project gave Community Memorial private rooms, bigger emergency and surgical departments, and the latest in technology like surgical robots and imaging devices. At 350,000 square feet, it was one of the biggest construction projects in Ventura in decades, and it transformed a part of midtown Ventura that the city has designated as its “wellness district.”

The new hospital opened in 2018, years later than anticipated but on budget, at $280 million in construction and equipment costs. The health system financed the project with bonds funded in part by a $25 million capital campaign. 

Community Memorial’s board has hired the recruiting firm Witt Kieffer to lead the search for a new CEO. Wilde will stay on the job until his replacement is hired and trained, which will probably occur in the fall of this year.

“Gary is an outstanding individual whose vision has helped build an incredible foundation for the future of Community Memorial Health System,” said Richard Rush, the chair of the board. “His experience and compassion are unmatched, and while we are sad to see him go, we are exceedingly proud of the work he has done in his tenure at Community Memorial Health System.”