WOONSOCKET — After 14 years as Chief Executive Officer of Thundermist Health Center, Maria Montanaro has decided to look ahead to new opportunities outside of Rhode Island.
In a letter to her friends and colleagues posted on Thundermist's website, Montanaro said it was with "mixed emotions" that she decided to leave her position with the health agency serving low to moderate income families and follow her husband of 30 years, David Warner, to his new career opportunity in Des Moines, Iowa.
"This past year my husband accepted a wonderful new position in Des Moines, Iowa. Now it is time fo me to join him," Montanaro said in her letter. "He and I began our married life in the midwest 30 years ago, so it seems fitting that as "empty nesters" we will spend time there again.
Montanaro and Warner have three adult sons, Matt, 29, Jake, 26, and Dan, 23, all have either completed college or are currently attending degree programs.
She will step down officially on June 17, but does plan to assist Thundermist with the search for a new CEO and will provide consulting services to the private, non-profit community healthcare organization for six months.
Thundermist's Chuck Jones, the Woonsocket site executive director and CIO, will begin serving as interim CEO on June 18. In addition to its headquarters site at 450 Clinton Street, the former SaveRite department store building, and its other Woonsocket satellite locations, Thundermist also operates community health centers and related operations in West Warwick and South Kingstown.
Montanaro said it would be "hard" for her to leave her position with Thundermist given that she has "loved leading this incredible organization" and working with "such a wonderful staff and board (of directors)."
But Montanaro said she also believes she and Thundermist's staff and directors have "accomplished a great deal during these past 14 years.
"I believe Thundermist's future is very bright."
When contacted about her decision to leave on Tuesday, Montanaro said her husband's relocation to his new job has reached the point where she must move forward on joining him in Iowa fulltime.
"We bought a house so I really need to get there," she said.
Her husband is a scientist working on bio-engineering drought-resistant strains of corn and made the move to supervise Pioneer Hi-Bred's worldwide bio-tech crop programs from Des Moines.
''We had some flexibility for David to pursue what turned out to be just a terrific opportunity," she said.
"Pioneer hired him to lead all of its projects on drought-resistant corn technologies," she said.
Montanaro also held enough confidence in Thundermist's future success to consider handing its leadership to someone else.
Since joining the organization as its CEO, Montanaro has seen Thundermist grow from a Woonsocket-based endeavor serving 8,500 clients its in the Greater Woonsocket area, to an organization now reaching just under 30,000 people from its three community centers.
During her tenure with the organization, Montanaro has seen Thundermist go from providing primary care services to disadvantaged families to adding programs for dental services, school based health huts, HIV and AIDS treatment and even a pharmacy program operated in conjuncton with CVS Pharmacy.
The agency was also able to move from its cramped headquarters on Arnold Street to the modern community healthcenter that is now located in the former SaveRite building on Clinton Street. There have also been initiatives to staff the "Molar Express," mobile dental care program for children and the Thunderkids wellness and dietary program for obese and at risk students in Woonsocket schools.
Just as it carried out a renovation of its Woonsocket headquarters in 2005, Thundermist is now looking to create a state-of-the-art, 15,000-square-foot community health facility on Providence Street in West Warwick.
The West Warwick center is expected to open before Montanaro leaves, she said.
Montanaro also expects to remain involved in the ongoing sale of Landmark Medical Center to a new operator, a decision that could be made by Woonsocket-based hospital's Superior Court master sometime next week. Although Montanaro has supported the partnering of the economically troubled Landmark with another non-profit corporation, she is also currently working to lend support to best for-profit partner that emerges from that process.
Thundermist's growth over the past 14 years and its expanded community outreach is a sign that the organization will be able to continue its mission in the years ahead, Montanaro said.
"My tenure here really has been hallmarked by a great deal of growth and a great deal of innovation," she said. The future should see the organization work harder to build intergrated relationships with other healthcare organizations and healthcare payers, she added.
"I think Thundermist has a pretty good road map for where it wants to go in the future, and in my mind that future is about intergration and partnerships with behavioral health organizations and interested parties, and intergrated partnerships with payers and hospitals," she said.