here for PDF format
for participants' responses to this interview.
of Discussion with Dave Durenberger and Dick Pettingill
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle, Bloomington, MN 55437
Monday, August 10,
Verne Johnson (Chair); Janis Clay, Paul Gilje, Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald,
Context of the meeting—
The Civic Caucus has been discussing this summer the future direction of
Minnesota, and of civic leadership in the state. Senator Dave Durenberger,
an active reader and contributor to the Caucus, suggested and arranged our
meeting today with Dick Pettingill, now-former President and CEO of Allina
Hospitals & Clinics.
Minnesotan, new to the state just seven years ago, Dick will lead the
Caucus in a conversation of leadership in the state from his experiences,
and going forward.
Welcome and introductions—Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced our two guests.
Dick Pettingill retired in June as
president and CEO of Allina Health System. Before joining Allina in 2002
Pettingill was president and CEO of the California division of Kaiser
Foundation Health Plan. Previously he was president and CEO of El Camino
Healthcare. His health care experience began at Stanford University
Medical Center, where he served on the executive staff for 10 years. He
has a master's in health care administration from San Jose State
University. Dave Durenberger
served as U.S. Senator from Minnesota from November 1978 to January
1995. He's a graduate of St. John's University and the University of
Minnesota law school. He served as chief of staff to Minnesota Governor
Harold LeVander in 1966. Durenberger is senior health policy fellow at
the Graduate School of Business at the University of St. Thomas and chair
of a joint effort with the University of Minnesota to create the National
Institute of Health Policy.
Comments and discussion—During
Pettingill's and Durenberger's comments and in discussion with the Civic
Caucus the following points were raised:
1. State's previous reputation as a Mecca of
reform and cooperation has been lost--“My
comments are concerned not so much about health,” Dick opened his remarks,
“as the erosion of leadership.” The Twin Cities, and Minnesota, was a
Mecca of reform in the 1970’s and 80’s. In health care there was practice
of managing cooperation instead of managing competition.
live and work in Minnesota that health care in this state was “Like dying
and going to heaven.” The state was known for its civic leadership, for a
government that works, and for a vibrant non-profit health care sector.
But that wasn't the case when he got here. He still got things done—he
still made great strides with Allina—but in another era, he says, it would
have been much easier. “There used to be civic support to help turnaround
large systems.” Not any longer.
to NPR a while back Pettingill picked up a program on a new book out on
Jimmy Carter. They were talking of what would come to be known as his
Malaise speech. He printed it off and brought it with him this
morning. “I ran into Walter Mondale” a few weeks back “and asked him,
‘What was the deal with that speech?’” The Vice President said that he
opposed it internally because he worried the public would see themselves
as part of the problem, not the solution. Pettingill asked, “How do we
come together without pointing fingers?”
Pettingill said, it cannot now be a matter of either/or, but and/but. Too
few are willing to reasonably compromise.
Lesson learned on business and civic leadership--Public
and private leadership need to pursue both the economic good and the
social good as one. He cited the Minnesota Early Learning Program (MELF)
as an example of a program achieving significant results for young people,
saving public money down the road.
to better balance business needs with what is good for business generally,
and the community.” Pettingill discussed the problems of four parties not
coming to terms on one children's hospital: Fairview, the University of
Minnesota, Children's Hospital, and Allina. The hospital systems could
not find a way to cooperate; we ended up building two children’s
facilities within miles of each other. “We have two good children’s
hospitals. We will never have a world class children’s hospital.”
medical arms race won out,” he said. “My impression is if you went back
one or two generations the community leaders would not have allowed this
asked Pettingill if he had any theories on what’s the cause of the shift
away from strong private leadership on matters of public import. “The
focus on economic accountability brings enormous pressure to CEO’s,” he
said. The return for community needs to compete with the return for
stockholders. It takes time for a company leader to be involved in the
civic affairs of the state. “I could spend as much as 25 percent of my
time on service.”
3. Envisioning the future of leadership in the
notion of civic responsibility and leadership is very important,”
Pettingill said, as is the idea of a commission of former state leaders to
devise a vision for the state. “But there need to be more young people
involved. Not just the grey beards. We need to get those who will be the
leaders in the coming years.”
asked how one might go about identifying who the coming leaders are? “That
would actually be easy,” he said. “Call up the leaders of companies, and
ask who their up and comers, their young leaders, are.” The Caucus will
think about this.
4. Appropriate questions for candidates for
Governor--A member wondered what type of probing questions the
Caucus should ask of Governor candidates? “Focus questions on both
performance—what they get accomplished—and culture. We’ve lost something
in the past decade; how do we get community and culture back?”
an important distinction,” another member noted, “between concerns of
performance and those of culture. Can we go back to what we had? No, we
probably can’t go back. Things have changed. The question now is how to
to his gubernatorial bid was not either/or, but and/both. Where/how can
we collaborate?” That was the right approach, Pettingill said.
question for the gubernatorial candidates: What have they solved? Get to
their honesty and authenticity. “There are three dimensions of trust,”
Pettingill said: “Competence, reliability, and sincerity.”
commented that he is encouraged by Minnesota’s ability to come up with
ideas—people bring ideas, the Governor and legislature support them. He’s
increasingly confident that there is good (though not enough)
idea-generation taking place. The question is, can these candidates for
Governor be the brokers of compromise? How important is that, to be a
question then for the candidates is how they see their role in bringing
good ideas to bear. “I’m confident the ideas can come in, but what happens
when they get there—when they arrive at the capitol?” Someone needs to
take them, and put them into actual proposals.
to a question, Pettingill said has no interest in running for Governor,
but suggested Jim Campbell, Twin Cities banker, as a possibility.
5. Party caucuses and recruiting candidates--A
member asked the Senator and Dick, "How do you make elective office
appealing for people to enter into public leadership?"
thought on this a lot,” Pettingill said. Durenberger stepped in: “Get 12
of these people together—like Dick—who have done something in private
life, and have them approach candidates pledging their full support.”
party caucus process a problem? “Coming from a state with a very organized
primary,” Pettingill observed, “going to my first caucus in Minnesota was
like a three-ring circus. I like the idea, but it seemed like disorder.”
He paused. “Probably won’t go again.”
parties recruit candidates, a member argued, they hardly ever go out and
seek the best possible candidates. Instead they sit and wait for people to
come in. “I don’t suspect you ever did this in your capacity as a CEO…”
Pettingill laughed. “Parties need to be more proactive; the caucus system
is not well-directed.” Pettingill argued throughout the discussion for
stronger leadership by those at the top—of business, of civic and cultural
life, of the political realm.
experienced in candidate selection processes reflected that, “It used to
be finance people picked candidates. That was lousy. Then parties endorsed
candidates, and had success.” But now we have the caucus system, where
single-issue activists select the candidate. “This doesn’t work,” he said.
6. Public involvement and leadership--Durenberger
noted the importance of personal and organizational collaboration, and the
role of health care companies and higher education institutions, which he
called the "powerhouses now". “These are two types of institutions that
are still local,” he said. “You’ll also need to tap the leadership of
local businesses—and not just those that have a headquarters here
important to keep retired CEO’s involved,” Pettingill added. But they need
a venue, and a culture of involvement. When a community faces a crisis,
he continued, they will come together. “When it comes to education, I can
point to the people and organizations that need to be engaged.”
7. Drafting an op-ed piece--To
close, Pettingill discussed an op-ed he has been drafting, on the topics
discussed today. He is not yet sure where/how he would like to release it.
He queried the group: “Do you have any suggestions on what you’d like me
Durenberger said he
should be ready to carry on a dialogue, after its initial publication.
Others followed that he should position himself as a resource. People are
interested in this message—foundations are interested, leaders are
interested. It will become only more important to engage the upcoming
generations of leaders. Dick, you’ll be needed. You’ve got a lot to
Pettingill plans to
split his time now between Minnesota—where he and his wife will maintain
their principal residency—and his native California. (Living only a mile
down the road, it turns out, from Senator Durenberger.) Next steps
include setting up the new residence in California, and preparing for his
fellowship at Harvard for the coming academic year. What then? To be
determined. With that, thanks all around for a good session.