Former Pleasanton City Manager Deborah McKeehan has been elected chairwoman of the ValleyCare Health System board of directors, a move that puts her at the helm of the nonprofit's board at a time when health care and costs are part of the national agenda.
McKeehan is well-suited for this unpaid leadership position. As city manager from 1990 to 2004, she rebuilt Main Street and restructured the city's financial system to place emphasis on salting away funds for a "rainy day." The effort started after the recession in the early part of the 1990s suddenly cut into the city's rapidly rising revenue during the building boom of the previous decade.
It continues today with the result that Pleasanton, with a reserve of well over $10 million, is financially well-positioned for the declining property and sales tax revenues we're seeing now as well as handling the seizure of $5 million or more in local property tax revenue by the state.
A city manager during a time of unprecedented growth in Pleasanton, she also worked with Livermore to merge the two cities' fire departments. Her only disappointment, she told me later, was that Dublin, which contracts out its fire protection services, wouldn't join the new partnership. On her watch, we saw the construction of the Pleasanton Senior Center, the development of the Callippe Preserve Golf Course and the agreement with Greenbriar Homes to give the city 318 acres of the Bernal property free of charge when the developer bought the 510-acre parcel from San Francisco. It was no surprise when McKeehan received the coveted Mayor's Award in 2004 and also was named that year as the Pleasanton Weekly's Woman of the Year.
McKeehan also served as this newspaper's president for about two years, and then took "early retirement," as she called it, to spend more time with her husband Jim, a Signature Properties executive, and their two daughters. Kelly, almost 20, is now a junior at Cal Poly, and Jessica, 15, will be starting her sophomore year at Amador. Although McKeehan left the workforce, she hardly retired. Even while at the Pleasanton Weekly, she volunteered as a board member at the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, which she plans to leave at the end of the year, and with the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association Foundation, which raised millions of dollars for children's charities and where she is now president. She'll give that up, too, in September, concentrating her volunteer efforts at ValleyCare and with Lady Hustle, a premier, traveling girls' softball league with four teams that she co-founded. She's passionate about both, spending long hours at strategic planning sessions at ValleyCare and also traveling as her schedule permits throughout the West for tournament and showcase play with the Lady Hustle girls, including many games where college baseball coaches are scouting with scholarships in hand for top players.
Over the years, ValleyCare, which was founded in the 1950s to serve a Livermore population that lacked nearby medical facilities, has had its financial challenges. At one time, it was targeted for takeover by John Muir and at another time a corporate health care giant was looking at the medical facility. But a strong board of local residents and new CEO Marcy Feit prevailed and ValleyCare has become more independent and financially strong ever since. It's this appeal McKeehan plans to build even further, pointing out that she's proud to represent one of the few hospitals in the country that truly serves the communities it's in. Board members, with a few exceptions, must be from Pleasanton or Livermore. Most of the physicians accredited to serve at ValleyCare have offices locally. It offers numerous personal services for patients and families that the "big guys," as McKeehan puts it, can only dream about.
McKeehan points to ValleyCare's new partnership with UC San Francisco's children's services center which will now provide specialized pediatric care at the Pleasanton medical center. She knows many here who had to travel with their infants and young children to Oakland, San Francisco or Stanford University for the consultations, treatments and other care they needed. That service is now only a short distance away thanks to ValleyCare's continued expansion into medically-focused fields usually not found in community hospitals. She recognizes that these are challenging times for health care but contends, that when the public listens carefully to the proposals for improvements in a system some say is broken, it should look at the vibrant, thriving community hospital we have right here at home serving the Tri-Valley.