By CLINT FOSTER
The upcoming uniform election is just a few days away and will place the fates of a hospital trustees, two Independent School District bonds and nine state constitutional amendments in voter’s hands.
Early voting continues through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Palo Pinto County Courthouse or the Palo Pinto County Annex Building in Mineral Wells. Remember to bring a valid form of photo identification.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, when, county wide, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
As for the Palo Pinto General Hospital (Hospital District) board of trustees election, there is one contested race, in which newcomer Matthew Baker is challenging incumbent James “J.C.” Colton for Place 2. Tim Hopkins (Place 1) and Lori Baker-Boyd (Place 3) are also on the ballot, but are uncontested in their elections.
Let’s meet the candidates for Place 2:
Matthew Baker will challenge the incumbent Colton for his position on the hospital board. Baker has spent the last four years as a nurse for Dr. Eric Brock at PPGH and told the Index he has “fallen in love with the area” since moving to Mineral Wells.
He has 36 years of experience in the medical business, including service as a hospital corpsman medic in the U.S. Navy and a 15-year stint with the Burn Intensive Care Unit in Lubbock before moving to Mineral Wells. He graduated second in his class from South Plains College’s nursing school in Levelland.
Baker has never sat on a hospital board, but what he lacks in experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm for the position. He said he wants to bring new insights and needed change to PPGH.
“I want this hospital to be absolutely the best that it can be,” he said. “My goal would be to improve patient care. I’ve worked in some good hospitals and some that needed improvement. So, I think I’ve got some insight on some things that work to improve a hospital.”
Baker said he is not at all daunted by the new potential challenge of serving on a hospital board for the first time.
“I realize it’s going to be a lot of work and there’s going to be a lot of learning to do, but I’m willing to put forth the time and the effort to do what needs to be done,” he said.
James “J.C.” Colton is the incumbent candidate in the election, looking to hold his Place 2 spot on the PPGH board that he has held for the past 14 years.
Colton’s family’s roots run deep in Mineral Wells and many of them have spent years serving the community in the public sector. His wife, Margaret, served as a council member at-large and mayor pro-tem on the Mineral Wells City Council for 10 years. His father-in-law, William Hill, served in the 1950’s on a committee that helped re-write the city charter that determined how Mineral Wells would use a city-manager form of government.
“We’ve always had a strong sense of public service in my family,” he said. “That’s something that we feel very strongly: you have an obligation to give back. It has been an enjoyable 14 years. I’ve enjoyed my service on the board and would like to continue it, if the voters see fit.”
If awarded another term, Colton told the Index his first priority would be helping PPGH implement the new and controversial Affordable Care Act.
“That’s going to be the first big challenge,” he said. “Every day that goes by, we learn some new aspect about how those rules are going to be implemented. There’s still many questions yet to be answered about how we will work with that.”
Among the issues associated with the Affordable Care Act is ensuring that physicians are properly compensated for the work they do. Colton said he wants to work with physicians in the community to make sure they “receive fair payment and insurance reimbursement to let them have a viable practice.”
“Medicare and Medicaid continue to shrink their payments,” he said of physicians. “That’s why you see some physicians that may choose not to take Medicaid or Medicare patients, because they just can’t afford it, with how much it costs to deliver those services versus how much they get back. The hospital works closely with those physicians, supports their efforts to have their concerns heard by the government and to make sure physicians receive fair compensation for the services they’re delivering.”
Colton is also involved in the community as the Director of the Education Center for Weatherford College in Mineral Wells. He said he strives to make Mineral Wells a great place to raise a family and provide a good education. A good public hospital is part of that equation.
“Mineral Wells has always been our home,” he said. “We want the community to be a good community for all families. A place you can always call home.”