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Striving to make a positive impact Hospital CEO Nielsen works to make GPRMC and the community grow

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reg Nielsen has a vision. The chief executive officer for Great Plains Regional Medical Center wants GPRMC to be a regional health care destination. That dream is well on its way toward becoming a reality under Nielsen’s leadership. Since he took over the helm in 2009, GPRMC has expanded both its services and its infrastructure. The actions have required the hiring of additional employees — a boost to the local economy. “The more we grow, the more the community grows,” Nielsen said. “If you have a good medical infrastructure, you will have a healthy and vibrant town.” Nielsen has a significant amount of experience in rural health care. He served as CEO at Weston County Health Services in Newcastle,

Wyo., and at Mountainview Medical Center in White Sulphur Springs, Mont. Prior to accepting his current position at GPRMC, Nielsen was the CEO of Holy Rosary Healthcare, a 137-bed hospital and long-term care facility in Miles City, Mont. His responsibilities there included recruiting physicians, acquiring new diagnostic equipment, overseeing the construction and renovation of departments and developing services. He also started a Healthy Lifestyles program that ranked No. 1 in the state for participation, pounds lost and overall health improvements. Many of his ideas carried over to North Platte. “What really intrigued me about North Platte when I was considering a move was the potential that existed,” Nielsen said. “I saw a lot of opportunities for both for the community and the hospital.” Since Nielsen’s arrival, GPRMC has broadened its orthopedic, gener-

al surgery, oncology, bariatrics, neurology and sleep medicine programs. In 2011, GPRMC was certified as a primary stroke center — making it the first Nebraska hospital to receive the designation outside of Lincoln and Omaha. Also in 2011, GPRMC began seeing patients through its new Great Plains Heart and Vascular Center, the only interventional cardiology facility west of Kearney. The 24-hour, seven-day interventional cardiology program provides both diagnostic and treatment services. It also offers stents — something patients previously had to travel to Lincoln or Denver to get. “The most important thing about the center is we can save lives,” Nielsen said. “But I’m guessing we’re also saving the community about $1 million per year by keeping people here instead of sending them out of town for procedures.” The Great Plains Get Moving Club, which encourages fitness and proper nutrition, was

Heather Johnson / The North Platte Telegraph

Greg Nielsen, chief executive officer for Great Plains Regional Medical Center, looks over a chart with Dr. Benji Kitagawa in the emergency department of the hospital. Nielsen is pushing hard to make GPRMC a regional healthcare destination. By HEATHER JOHNSON | hjohnson@nptelegraph.com rolled out to GPRMC employees last year. Similar to the Healthy Lifestyles program, it will be introduced to the public this spring. Not all of Nielsen’s goals have been met. “A big hole we have to fill is spine,” Nielsen said. “We don’t offer spine surgeries, but Kearney does. We also want to continue to grow our current service lines,

especially cardiology, and increase our doctors in orthopedics.” When not occupied with hospital business, Nielsen finds ways to be involved in the community. That includes volunteering to coach football and basketball for elementary students. Nielsen has also been chairman of the North Platte Area Chamber

Board of Directors, has been on the North Platte Community College Foundation Board of Directors and has been a member of the North Platte Rotary Club. “I think the community is only as good as the people in it,” Nielsen said. “They’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. I would rather make a positive impact.”

Offering a view from the other side Groene says his motivation comes from old civic lesson

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ike Groene has ruffled a few feathers. The chairman of the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association says it comes down to a lesson he learned in civics class many years ago. “Take part in your government. There’s nothing radical about that,” he said. Moving to town before the 2003 election, Groene said his first experience with the political process in North Platte was a school bond issue. “I looked at the facts and I said, ‘Why isn’t this being told? Why isn’t the media covering this?’ I got frustrated,” he said. “I’d never seen a town run by such a good ol’ boy system.” During that election, Groene met Gary Heinzle — who now serves as the vice chairman of the

WNTA — and the two of them began to discuss the idea of forming a group of people that would be a watchdog organization for local politics. “After the 2003 election, we were so frustrated we said, ‘We ought to start a group,’” Groene said. So the pair placed ads in the local media encouraging people of a like mind to join them for a meeting at the North Platte Public Library. “Well, a bunch of people showed up. That’s how it all started,” he said. Groene said their goal is to research local issues and find out what the facts are and present opposite viewpoints that he feels aren’t always being vetted in the public eye. He likened it to being a reporter. “All we do is point out facts or point out the other side of the argument. I think we’ve had some effect in the community,” he said. “We’ve gotten some transparency.” The group’s fight to get a petition on the

Telegraph file photo

Mike Groene, chairman of the Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association, testifies at a September public hearing in front of the Nebraska Legislature’s Tax Modernization Committee. By ANDREW BOTTRELL | abottrell@nptelegraph.com ballot changing how the Golden Spike Tower is funded went all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court. “I love the truth. I love America. It’s what we’re based on is the truth,” Groene said. “If you

don’t have that, corruption can take over.” Groene was also instrumental in starting the Platte Institute, a statewide organization that acts as a watchdog entity for the Nebraska government.

“It’s the same thing that we do locally,” Groene said. “When a reporter wants the other side of the story, they call us.” With 17 state senate seats open, and wide open races for governor

and the U.S. Senate, it’s going to be a busy political year in Nebraska. Groene said his focus will turn to a number of statewide issues, including the election. “Where we’re at, we’re so fiscally sound because we’ve had Midwestern common sense. It’s critical in this election. We’ve got to get someone like Sen. Tom Hansen who has to take care of the west [half of the state] and stand up for what’s right,” he said. Groene said the Medicaid expansion that will happen soon is a major issue because it will affect spending statewide. Locally, his focus is on property tax rates, specifically in the city where tax rates were raised for the 2013-14 fiscal year but are expected to come down in the next budget cycle. “We’re going to put some pressure on the mayor and city administrator. There’s no excuse now. We gave them a pass on raising taxes this year,” Groene said. “They are in charge now, and they have support on the [North Platte] City Council that they should be able to control taxes. Now they are the majority and they ought to get something done.”


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THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Learning the grass isn’t always greener Lindley finds opportunity to volunteer, a forever home for his family in NP

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t’s a long way from Stockport, England, in Greater Manchester where the rivers Goyt and Tame merge to create the River Mersey, to North Platte, where the North and South Platte rivers run.

But North Platte is now home to Dr. David Lindley, his wife, Helen, and their two children, Simon and Rebecca. Lindley took his medical training in Leeds, England. “I worked there a little bit but the health system in England was going through some flux and changes,” Lindley said. “So we started traveling straight away.” The couple moved to the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina, where they stayed for three years. “There weren’t many doctors there so we had lots of experiences,” Lindley said. “After that, we decided to settle somewhere else. England seemed a bit tame after what we had done.” The couple immigrated to Canada, where Helen had family. “And people think it gets cold here,” Lindley said. “We came south ...

We followed other Canadians south of the border to escape the government-run health system.” Their son, Simon, was 6 months old when they came to North Platte. “We like the size of North Platte,” he said. “It meets all our basic needs. We like that it is on the Interstate because we love to travel. We like to hike in the mountains and from North Platte, in four hours you can be in Breckenridge or Vail.” After 15 years in North Platte, it is now home. Lindley is in practice with Dr. Kent Allison at Complete Family Medicine. He finds he must balance his busy medical practice, his family and service to the community. “It’s hard when you are a doctor,” he said. “Work comes first. You try to be as involved [in the community] as much as you can.” His children are involved in golf and basketball. “With all the hospital and church committees I sit on and running around with what the kids do, there are not a lot of evenings at home,” he said. Lindley finds time for the things that are dear to his heart, including the Boy Scouts and music. “My dad was a Scout leader and I was in all

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Dr. David Lindley, who balances a busy medical practice at Complete Family Medicine in North Platte with volunteering as a Boy Scout leader, playing in the Sandhills Symphony Orchestra, and chairing of the Nebraska Public Health Association, is one of the movers and shakers in North Platte for 2014. Lindley and his family also enjoy hiking and skiing. Pictured from, left are Helen, Rebecca, David and Simon Lindley.

Dr. David Lindley is active in Boy Scout leadership in North Platte. He is assistant troop leader for Troop 297 and in 2013, co-founded the first chapter of Venturing Scouts for older youth in North Platte.

By DIANE WETZEL | dwetzel@nptelegraph.com my life,” he said. “Once my son got to Cub Scout age, I’ve been involved.” Lindley is assistant Scout Master for Troop 297. Along with John Guethlein, he established the first chapter of the Venturing Program for young people ages 14 to 21. The program celebrated its first anniversary in North Platte this month. “Scouting a such a good program for youth and it’s fun to be a part of,” he said. Lindley has served on the West Central District

Health Board of Directors as medical director and board president. He left the board in March 2013. Currently, he is president of the Nebraska Public Health Association. The Lindleys are active members of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in North Platte. Helen teaches Sunday school and David fills in as organist. He also serves on several church committees. He has also played the violin in the Sandhills Symphony since he came to North Platte.

With one child in high school and another in middle school, the Lindleys stay busy following their activities. “In Canada, we lived in a community of about 2,000 people,” he said. “When we came, here we thought we had hit the big city. “North Platte has been a very friendly community. We like the school system here. It’s a safe place for our kids and we are able to be involved. And if we lived in a bigger city, I would never be able to play in an orchestra like I do here. I wouldn’t be good

enough.” He hopes to practice medicine in North Platte for at least another 15 years. “I can see us retiring here, depending on where our kids end up,” he said. “There would have to be a good reason to move out of North Platte. The grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. It’s an enjoyable place and we are happy and blessed to be here. We are so pleased with the support we get from everybody. It’s nice to be able to be of service to the community. We enjoy a good life.”

Making North Platte a better place to live Striebel strives to put an affordable roof over every resident’s head

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ombating housing issues in North Platte is a team effort, Nancy Striebel says. The executive director of the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation plays a key role, though. “There’s always something to do,” Striebel said. Striebel has a degree in urban development and planning from Texas A&M University. She went off to school with plans on a sociology degree, but as she put it, the “guys — and there were only guys in the architecture school in the ’70s” — were having a lot more fun. “I didn’t want to [go into sociology],” she said. “I switched my curriculum because [architecture] was fun.” She got her first taste of publicly-funded housing development in Lawrence, Mass., a town that dealt with a lot of immigrants, she said, and didn’t have the housing to support the influx in residents. Several years later, when she and her husband, Dr. John Striebel, relocated to North Platte, Nancy got involved with

the Clean City Committee. Her involvement there led her to The Connection homeless shelter, where she got an intimate look at the housing issues in North Platte. “I knew there was a housing issue, but I didn’t know the homeless were our own who just needed houses,” she said. So, when she was offered the job of executive director at the LCCDC, she jumped at the opportunity. “I wanted to be a part of the housing solution. The LCCDC is part of that housing solution,” she said. The two major programs operated by the LCCDC are the owner-occupied rehabilitation program and the house replacement program. The LCCDC has several other programs and owns 18 rental properties in Lincoln County. “There’s room for some more things, too,” Striebel said. “I’m worried about special needs housing. [I’m worried about] older people who are renting.” Striebel said the housing issue in North Platte isn’t something that can be solved by just one organization. She works with the city of North Platte, the North Platte Housing Authority, Mid-Nebraska Community Action Partnership, Rape and Domestic Abuse, The Connection and many

other organizations in North Platte to help people find safe, affordable housing. “We all want to create affordable housing,” she said. “For example, we don’t provide utility assistance, but [the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development] does.” Striebel would like to see North Platte explore other avenues for helping low-income families get affordable housing. One idea, she said, is to develop a citywide housing trust that would help the city create more housing. She said North Platte

Andrew Bottrell / The North Platte Telegraph

Nancy Striebel has been the executive director at the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation since 2001. By ANDREW BOTTRELL | abottrell@nptelegraph.com also needs to focus on its housing stock, because that’s something employers need in order to

attract people to move to the community. “The thing that keeps popping up is when a

business moves to town, there’s not anywhere for workers to live,” she said.


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Family and faith drive the Dodsons North Platte couple set to lead Catholic school system into the future

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or Kevin and Wendy Dodson, it’s about family, faith and community. Through their roles as superintendent of North Platte Catholic Schools and director of North Platte Catholic Schools Endowment-Trust, the couple is responsible for making sure the Catholic education system in North Platte remains strong. Kevin Dodson is a product of North Platte’s Catholic School system, graduating in 1989. “My dad and my brothers and I went to school here,” he said. “I had such a positive experience in school.” After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kevin taught

English and physical education in Columbus before returning home to North Platte. He taught English, P.E. and coached football for 12 years before moving into the superintendent’s office three years ago. He still coaches the football team. And scoops sidewalks when it snows. And drives the school bus when needed. “I wanted to be able to give back to a school that I felt had a huge impact on the person I had become,” he said. Wendy Koch Dodson grew up in North Platte, attending public schools. After graduating in 1997 from North Platte High School, she worked for KNOP-TV news. “A friend set us up on a blind date,” Wendy said. “We didn’t know each other while we were growing up.” “Oh gosh, I can see the headlines now, ‘Cradle robber,’” Kevin said with a laugh. “Now people will know all about our age difference.” The couple have three children, Logan, 7, Paige, 5, and Hope, 3. “North Platte is a kind

of little hidden secret as far as raising a family,” Kevin said. “It’s a great place to raise your family. We are in a school system we believe strongly in and that’s important to us, that our kids have the option of being in a Catholic school. “You come back to your hometown when you have positive experiences. We want our young family to have a blessed childhood like we did. That’s important to us.” Wendy left KNOP-TV after Logan was born. She returned briefly, but the hours were not conducive to family life. “With Kevin working during the day and my working at night, it was just too hard not to be home at the same time,” Wendy said. She did freelance work for a while, including work for Great Plains Regional Medical Center before she received a call from Kathleen Keenan, a member of the endowment board. “She told me the job of director was open and encouraged me to apply,” Wendy said. “The fact

Diane Wetzel / The North Platte Telegraph

Kevin and Wendy Dodson, photographed in Kevin’s office at St. Patrick’s High School, are the movers and shakers behind the North Platte Catholic School system in North Platte. Kevin is superintendent of schools. Wendy is the director of the North Platte Catholic Schools Endowment-Trust. By DIANE WETZEL | dwetzel@nptelegraph.com that Kevin was here and we knew our children would be students here, I decided to interview and they decided I was a good fit. I think they took a gamble with hiring me.” As director of the foundation, Wendy is responsible for raising one-third of the school system’s annual budget. That includes organizing events such as the annual G.R.E.E.N. fundraiser and Irish Fest. In 2013, G.R.E.E.N. raised a record-breaking amount of $120,000. “I want to be around to see that we fulfill our stated mission,” Wendy said. “We have seen donations increase and

money from our events increase. I want to continue to see the endowment grow.” Wendy also helped lead the recent $2.5 million fundraising campaign, “Forward in Faith,” to make capital improvements at St. Patrick’s High School and McDaid Elementary School. “I think Wendy is the real mover and shaker here,” Kevin said. “God put me in the right place at the right time,” Wendy said. Both Kevin and Wendy are active in Rotary, and Wendy is active in the Business and Professional Women’s group. Wendy also volunteers

for the Miss Nebraska Scholarship program. She competed in the program for six years, with first runner-up as her highest finish. In 2013, she served as a judge for the Miss Nebraska Teen competition. Both Wendy and Kevin see their current roles as being long-term ones. “Kevin and I are lucky and blessed to be working on the same campus with people we trust who are working hard for children.” Wendy said. “The people we serve appreciate the work we do,” Kevin said. “Our driving motivation is our children.”

Using her wisdom to influence others For Gilbert, life is about finding ways to help others, wherever she happens to be

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eanie Gilbert likes primary colors. Red is her favorite. It matches her personality. The executive director of the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program in North Platte says wisdom and volunteering have put her in a place to help people. “I push volunteering because it opens doors,” Gilbert said. “You’ve got to want to help and make a difference.” Gilbert has lived in North Platte since moving here from Omaha with her family at the age of 15. “Dad got transferred here [by Union Pacific] when I was 15. Then I married a railroader,”

she said. As she was raising her children, she was mostly a stay-at-home mom until getting a job at Joseph’s School of Beauty, where she was first a student and later a teacher. In 1996, an article in the newspaper inspired her to volunteer. At the time, the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program in North Platte was in need of volunteers, so that’s where she went. Several months later, she was hired as a fulltime employee, and 18 years later, that’s where she is now the executive director. “God puts me right where he wants me,” she said. “I just wanted to help. If it wasn’t this specifically, it could have been anything.” She says that God had a plan for her, and His plan was for her to continue to help RDAP. Raised by “the two wisest women I know,” her mother and grandmother, Gilbert said she

tries to pass that on. “Now I teach wisdom all the time,” she said. “You can be wise and you can make a difference in the world.” Gilbert says wisdom is important when counseling victims of rape and domestic abuse, and helping educate them about life is important. “You’ve got to find your wise mind,” she said. “The tough part is the follow-through.” Gilbert said it takes a team of individuals and organizations in the community to help make RDAP a success. “People will always help me find the answers. It’s teamwork,” she said. “It’s not just RDAP.” Outside of her position at RDAP, Gilbert is very active at her church, is the president of the Golden Spike Board, teaches several classes and helps to organize Youth for Christ fundraisers. “There’s always something to do,” she said.

Andrew Bottrell / The North Platte Telegraph

Jeanie Gilbert, surrounded by her favorite color, red, tries to impart as much “wisdom” as she can as the executive director of the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program in North Platte. By ANDREW BOTTRELL | abottrell@nptelegraph.com


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MOVERS & SHAKERS

THE NORTH PLATTE TELEGRAPH

Not afraid to venture out on a limb Fudge brings his drive and will to succeed to the Nebraskaland Days office

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f there’s one thing David Fudge believes in, it’s North Platte. The small-town atmosphere, friendly people, opportunities and potential were contributing factors in his decision to set down roots in the community. It’s where he lives, raises a family and has embarked on a career as the executive director of Nebraskaland Days, the official state celebration. Because his life is based in North Platte, it’s only logical that Fudge would want to see the community prosper. He believes NLD can help with that. To do so, the celebration itself must remain viable. “Nebraskaland Days has an average direct impact on the local economy of about $7.5 million,” Fudge said. “The celebration doesn’t last long, but it’s long enough to provide a shot in the arm for this community.” A Paxton native, Fudge moved to North Platte when he was 12. He graduated from North Platte High School in 1991 and pursued jobs in broadcasting and sales before being named the NLD executive director in 2011. He brought experience to the position. Fudge had spent the prior seven years as a volunteer on the NLD board, including four years as co-chairman of the concert committee and two years as vice president. It was Fudge’s knowledge of the celebration and community and his vision for the future that got him hired, according

to Lance Carlson, former NLD board president. Part of why Fudge understands the direction NLD needs to go is because he knows where it has been. “I’ve seen the celebration at its worst,” Fudge said. “In 2005, NLD was $100,000 in debt. Those of us on the board didn’t know if we were going to be able to cover expenses.” He attributes a key decision for helping the celebration bounce back. “In 2009, we hired a talent buyer and concert producer for our shows,” Fudge said. “It was the single best thing that happened to us in 10 years. There’s no bigger risk for NLD than the concerts.” Fudge drew on his broadcasting connections to make the arrangement. He had met the talent buyer while in Nashville, Tenn., attending a single release party for country singer Taylor Swift. “Concert buying is all about buying power,” Fudge said. “The guy we work with can buy in quantity — not just for us but around us.” That’s why many of the acts that perform in North Platte do so as part of a Midwest tour stop. The big names that have traveled through in recent years have dramatically increased attendance. “When I started on the board, we averaged 4,000-5,000 people per show,” Fudge said. “When Big and Rich performed, there was a crowd of 7,700, and we thought that was a huge night. But since 2011, we haven’t had an attendance under 8,300.” More people meant more money for the celebration. That allowed the NLD board to turn its attention toward aspects previously put on hold. “We didn’t do anything aside from basic maintenance to the

Heather Johnson / The North Platte Telegraph

David Fudge, executive director for Nebraskaland Days, tests out the organization’s new website on Monday. Fudge is committed to making the official state celebration the best that it can be. By HEATHER JOHNSON | hjohnson@nptelegraph.com aging Wild West Arena between 2003 and 2007 because we just couldn’t afford it,” Fudge said. “So, we’ve slowly been improving that area. We also hired an engineering crew to study the health of the current facility.” Some of the upgrades being considered include better handicap seating and more shelter for people who may get caught in severe weather. Strategic planning for the type and layout of activities has also been done. Fudge said part of the reason NLD got into financial trouble in the past was because people wanted it to be the next Cheyenne Frontier Days. “We need to be Nebraskaland Days,” Fudge said. “And we need to be the best Nebraskaland Days we can be. With that being said, if you’re not evolving you’re falling behind.” He said the Buffalo

Bill Rodeo has evolved by adding a video replay system and using the audio contractor that also works at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Fudge believes it’s important to maintain a balance between new events and the traditional events that define NLD such as the rodeo, Frontier Revue and parade. Some of the new

events that have been tested include boxing, mixed martial arts and a comedy night. “If you don’t go out on a limb sometimes, you will never find out what people like or don’t like,” Fudge said. Although he doesn’t intend to go anywhere anytime soon, his plan for when he does leave the job is to make sure

the celebration is set up to be successful for the next 40 years. “I’m a firm believer in leaving it in better shape than I found it,” Fudge said. “I’m looking forward to that. I get a charge out of seeing things come together. Some days I look in the mirror and can’t believe I get to do this for a living. It’s pretty cool.”

North Platte Movers & Shakers  

Publication dedicated to the positive impact of businesses and individuals in the North Platte community in 2013.

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