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A sweet pill to swallow

Dr. Tom Witt (right) hugs wife Betsy Witt while getting congratulated Jan. 7 after being named Citizen of the Year by the Goodhue County Editorial Association. (Republican Eagle photos by Michael Brun)1 / 2
Dr. Tom Witt (holding certificate) was joined at the award ceremony in Cannon Falls by wife Betsy (center), sons Luke and Adam, and daughter Carolyn. 2 / 2

CANNON FALLS — As he reached the stairs leading down to Valley View Café inside Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls last week, Dr. Tom Witt knew something was awry.

Witt thought he would be meeting with the press to discuss health care, but to his surprise found a small crowd of friends and colleagues smiling up at him.

The family medicine physician and CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing was presented the Goodhue County Editorial Association’s 2014 Citizen of the Year award, the third time a doctor has been honored with the title in 50 years.

“The only thing I worry about with things like this is they’re usually an indication that you’re getting older or at the end of your career,” Witt said after accepting the award certificate, “and I don’t have any intention of slowing down any time soon.”

Along with his work as a health provider and executive, Witt serves on the Mayo Clinic Health System in Menomonie Board of Trustees, chairs the Minnesota Hospital Association Physician Leadership Council and sits on the Minnesota Medical Association Policy Council.

His community involvement includes Rotary Club of Lake City and serving on the boards of the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties and Red Wing Family YMCA.

“I’m proud of him, he’s worked hard,” said Betsy Witt, Tom’s wife. “Unfortunately he’ll probably just set the bar a little higher now. That’s kind of how he operates.”

Also there to celebrate the occasion were Witt’s three adult children, Luke, Adam and Carolyn, who said they were told about the award about a week in advance.

“We definitely wanted to be part of the surprise,” Luke Witt said.

Health care vision

With several area journalists in attendance, talk soon turned to the health care discussion Witt originally expected, including comments on the impact of the Affordable Care Act.

“We needed to do something about health care and paying for health care,” Witt said. Though imperfect, he called the Affordable Care Act a “starting point” to a national conversation on the subject.

Witt said the future of the local health system will see a trend away from “one patient, one physician relationships,” and a return to making house calls.

“They’re not going to be the house calls with a doctor showing up in a buggy with a black bag,” he added, but would instead involve a team of home care nurses and electronic tools to provide care outside of the traditional hospital setting.

Witt studied medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School and completed his residency in North Dakota. Before joining Mayo Clinic Health System in 1997, he practiced in North Dakota, Washington and then Red Wing, where he was an Interstate Medical Center partner.

“We’re very fortunate to have him here, and I just hope he doesn’t get a big head now that he’s Citizen of the Year,” said Bill Priest, chief administrative officer at Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls.

Along with being a good doctor, Priest said Witt has been a good guy to be around and personable in the five years they’ve worked together.

“It’s been a great journey in Cannon Falls and the rest of Goodhue County,” Witt said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with everyone here, and I look forward to all we can accomplish.”

Previous citizens of the year

The Goodhue County Editorial Association honored Tom Witt as the 2014 citizen of the year.

He succeeded 2013 citizen Char Henn of Red Wing. Previously honored citizens were:

1963 — G.J. “Dick” Kunau, Red Wing; 1964 — Milo Swenke, Goodhue; 1965 — Clem Nelson, Welch; 1966 — George Conzemius, Cannon Falls; 1967 — Howard Bailey, Zumbrota; 1968 — Dr. W.A. Bohan, Kenyon; 1969 — Martin Tongen, Wanamingo; 1970 — Roy Voxland, Kenyon.

1971 — Jack Adams, Red Wing; 1972 — Paul Zillgitt, Red Wing; 1973 — Esther Maurer, Red Wing; 1974 — Erma Brooks, Zumbrota; 1975 — Dr. William Walter, Wanamingo; 1976 — Vaughn Bien, Goodhue; 1977 — Obert Loken, Zumbrota; 1978 — Cecil Holsing, Zumbrota; 1979 - William D. Sweasy, Red Wing; 1980 - Ken Althoff, Cannon Falls, and Ernie Trelstad, Zumbrota.

1981 — Albion Rodde, Kenyon; 1982 — Sue Rockne, Zumbrota; 1983 — the Rev. Bruce Peterson, Goodhue; 1984 — John Schwartau, White Rock, and Paul Voxland, Holden Township; 1985 — Steve Sviggum, Kenyon; 1986 — Jean Chesley, Red Wing; 1987 — Leila Ruegg, Pine Island; 1988 — John Davidson, Bombay; 1989 — Dick Walter, Red Wing; 1990 — Bernie Melter, Cannon Falls.

1991 — Joanell Dyrstad, Red Wing; 1992 — Harold Nielsen, Kenyon; 1993 — Evelyn Nelson, Red Wing; 1994 — Don Hernke, Cannon Falls; 1995 — Jim Grantman, Red Wing; 1996 — Dan Ludwig, Red Wing, and Don Gates Jr., Kenyon; 1997 — Don Webster, Zumbrota; 1998 — Forest Wipperling; 1999 — John Cole, Kenyon; 2000 — Dean Massett, Red Wing;

2001 — Ray Rapp of Cannon Falls; 2002 - George Gorman, Goodhue; 2003 — Kathleen Olson of Red Wing and Chuck Schwartau of Goodhue; 2004 — Ken Edstrom of Pine Island; 2005 — Bob Davis of Cannon Falls; 2006 — Joel Stenhaug of Warsaw Township; 2007 — Richard Samuelson of Cannon Falls; 2008 — Ken Schueler of Zumbrota; 2009 — Scott McNurlin of Goodhue; 2010 — Jim Foss of Kenyon.

2011 — Al and Roy Lodermeier of Goodhue; 2012 — Larry VanDeWalker of Wanamingo; 2013 — Char Henn.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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