Rick Glancey is headed to Dallas where he will lead government relations efforts statewide for one of the largest operators of hospitals in the country.
Tenet Healthcare, a Fortune 500 company, operates 77 hospitals and 177 outpatient centers nationwide, including 19 hospitals in Texas.
It’s a big promotion for Glancey at a time when health care policy is a big issue in America. The former weather forecaster has worked as director of public relations for the Tenet-owned Sierra Providence Health Network in El Paso for the past five years.
He has also been one of the most active members of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce.
As chair of the chamber’s Armed Forces Division and director of military affairs for Sierra Providence, Glancey has become an expert on the inner workings of Fort Bliss and has been one of its greatest supporters, advocating for the post in El Paso, Austin and Washington, D.C.
Glancey calls himself an Air Force brat who was born in Puerto Rico. His dad, “a farm boy from Illinois,” came to El Paso by way of Biggs Army Airfield. His mom is from El Paso.
Glancey’s eclectic career began in radio. He then went into television, working as a weatherman at KVIA Channel 7, and from television, he went into marketing and public relations.
He worked for a while in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office as director of public affairs and has worked in public relations and marketing for Sierra Providence since 2008.
Tenet operates four hospitals in El Paso: Providence Memorial Hospital, Sierra Medical Center, Sierra Providence East Medical Center and Providence Children’s Hospital.
Glancey sat down with El Paso Inc. and talked about the future of Fort Bliss, serious budget cuts and hiring veterans. But first, the day El Paso got 22 inches of snow.
Q: Search the web for “Rick Glancey El Paso” and the results include a 1989 El Paso Press Club news bloopers video. It is filled with big glasses, mullets and some pretty funny gags poking fun at the local press. You made the cut.
We used to do a local Gridiron comedy show. In fact, it was done at the Plaza Theatre Downtown for a number of years. Really the camaraderie we had back then in the ‘70s and the ‘80s in the print and broadcast media was rather strong – very competitive but strong.
Q: Certainly a different, perhaps more beleaguered, media environment today. There is no press club to belong to in El Paso anymore.
Really? I did not know that. That’s a shame because the ability to sit down with your peers and discuss how you can further the cause of the First Amendment is always critical. That is an absolute shame that a market this size has lost touch with some of its beginnings.
Q: I’ve heard you were quite a weatherman.
I was a professional pointer. There are great meteorologists then there are good weathermen. I always just wanted to be a good weatherman, whether it included adding an anecdote or a funny here or there. I still, believe it or not, look at a 500-millibar chart before I travel.
Q: So you were the person that, if we had hurricanes here, might have reported in the rain in front of a backdrop of wildly blowing palm trees.
I remember the day I stood right there by the Spaghetti Bowl highway interchange. I believe we had a record 22 inches of snow. We had more snow that day then Buffalo, N.Y.
I want to say it was 1987, and I thought the only way to tell the story… You see, we didn’t have the graphics we use today. We were still using magnetic boards. I thought the only way to tell the story was to go out and show all these cars going up the Spaghetti Bowl and sliding back down.
Q: How did you go from weatherman to public relations and marketing to Fort Bliss expert to your new position heading government relations for one of the top five largest health care companies in the nation?
I was absolutely the worst baseball player in Little League. I’m a huge Cubs fan, and I always wanted to be Ernie Banks. Really, I think it was my coach who gave me an opportunity by calling me a utility player – a player who can play several different positions.
Generally that means something good, but for me it just meant I was fair enough to be in right field, wasn’t good enough to be at second base and occasionally I could be thrown in at shortstop.
So, as I was growing up, I made it part of my own personal mission statement: Do not be afraid of anything that is thrown at you. Catch it and go with it.
Q: It is certainly an interesting time to be in government relations for a health care company. I know you haven’t started the job yet, but could you give me a sense of what Tenet’s legislative agenda is?
Really, I couldn’t speak to that on point. What I can tell you is in the advocacy and public policy arenas we want to be engaged. We want to make sure we are at the table and that we are listening more so than speaking. Come mid January, I may be able to give you a stronger perspective.
Q: Let’s turn to Fort Bliss then. The massive, $5-billion expansion is essentially over. What’s the latest there?
For everyday El Pasoans, it can be hard to understand exactly what sequestration, the automatic budget cuts, has meant. People are still shopping. People are still buying gas and groceries. But there are people inside that gate, on Fort Bliss, where every day is a decision day because of the limitations on the budget. So we have to be mindful of that as a community.
Eventually, as we go down the line with all of the budget issues we have in front of us, we are going to have to figure out how we are going to train soldiers and get them ready for the next combat mission when there is very little money for training.
Hopefully, we are not down to counting the number of bullets we have in our rucksack, but I’m afraid just based on what we have seen and heard of late that that could be a serious concern.
I think at the end of the day we’ll do all right here, but that doesn’t mean you rest on your laurels. It just means you become smarter and you become stronger as a region. And that’s one of the things we have really pushed over the last two years.
Q: Acting as a region?
Not just look at it from a Fort Bliss perspective, but what does this mean for White Sands Missile Range, what does this mean for Holloman Air Force Base? How can we work together to make sure we protect what we have?
I really don’t like the word “protect” because it sounds like you are on the defensive. I prefer to say: Let’s look at what we have, let’s advocate and let’s tell our story so that when people are making decisions, they are making the right decisions for the region. We are a national security gem out here.
I have been pushing, along with my other chamber colleagues, enough with the studies. Now is the time more than ever before to really take advantage of the collaborative we have here – New Mexico State, El Paso Community College, UTEP.
All the research and testing being done here with the military is going to the East Coast – places outside of El Paso. Well, why aren’t we putting the universities here at the forefront and making sure those companies know that we’ve got the talent pool here?
Q: What do you mean?
Companies come here with ideas of how to save soldiers’ lives, to minimize threats in combat, and do their testing here, but they take that information and often partner with East Coast and northern schools. We’ve got universities right here in our backyard that can probably do that research.
Q: How serious are the defense budget cuts?
Well, there are some discussions that the Army would be the same size as the Marine Corps – that’s actually been put on the table. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what that would mean for a Fort Bliss, or a Fort Hood, or a Fort Riley.
Many of these great Americans have now had multiple deployments with some spending as much as seven out of ten years down range. You get rid of that experience, and the next time there is another fight that comes down, look at all the experience you have lost. There isn’t a Fortune 500 company that would allow itself to lose that kind of experience – to lose that talent.
We recognize the fights are coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the threats have ended. Those men and women inside that post have a responsibility to be ready every day, and we can’t take away those tools they need to be ready.
Don’t lose sight of what those great Americans do at Fort Bliss. Don’t lose sight of that. As a nation, we are fatigued after 10 years. I’ve been to a number of funerals on Fort Bliss.
I have seen families hurt by what happens at Fort Bliss. But there are a number of families out there that are still hurting, and it would be sad if we don’t continue to tell their story.
Q: You recently went to Washington, D.C. with other Greater Chamber members to talk about regional military partnerships here with congressmen on Capitol Hill.
Our top focus was veterans. Again, if you look at all of the soldiers who are leaving Fort Bliss, there is a tremendous amount of talent that is coming out of today’s Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
There are soldiers who can take your iPhone apart and make it work again. They understand logistics, they understand communication, they’ve seen it all and they’ve done it all. They are a great workforce.
We would love for those soldiers to stay in our community and call El Paso home and help us show these large companies out there that we have the talent pool necessary for their company to relocate to El Paso.
Q: Has Sierra Providence hired any veterans?
We’ve hired several. In fact, if we hire a family member of a soldier, and they get orders to move to another location, we assist them in relocating to another Tenet hospital so we don’t lose that talent.
Q: How realistic is it that soldiers are going to stay here when they leave the Army? Some have certainly fallen in love with the city but others say it is desert, isolated and they can’t wait to leave.
When soldiers first come here, they Google El Paso and see the five negative headlines. Then they look at the images – some see a desert and some see a beautiful mountain. But what I will tell you is many come to fall in love with El Paso despite their original perception.
I saw the former division sergeant major, David Davenport, in Washington, D.C. He said, “I can’t wait to get back to El Paso. That’s going to be our home.” We hear that all the time.
Q: How important are the hospitals here to Tenet?
Extremely. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the community of El Paso, and a lot of great things have happened here. These hospitals have been able to share what they’ve learned and some of their best practices with other facilities across the country.
Q: Do you plan to come back?
El Paso will always be home for me. I learned a long time ago not to try to figure out what the future holds.
We’ve lived in a lot of places around the country, but El Paso always seemed to be home base for our family. This is a great place to raise a family – absolutely a great place to raise a family.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Robert Gray at email@example.com or call (915) 534-4422 ext. 105.