|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - January 2011
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
Striedel named Polk Countian of the Year
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Elridge Striedel, this year’s Polk Countian of the Year, has been a leader in two vital industries that serve every resident of Polk County and the surrounding area — electricity and health care Through his position on the board of Memorial Medical Center-Livingston as well as a director of MMC-Lufkin and MMC-East Texas, he has helped oversee a radical change in the quality of medical care available to Polk County residents. His dedicated efforts to improving electrical power distribution and health care in East Texas earned the Livingston resident the top award from the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce for 2011. Supervisors at his day job at Sam Houston Electric Cooperative (SHECO) encouraged him to serve on the board of governors for the Livingston Hospital District beginning in 1975. SHECO’s manager at the time, Milton T. Potts, believed the hospital’s mission was to serve the same people that made up SHECO’s membership and encouraged his community service. During his early years on the board of governors, the hospital district was a tax-supported entity. “We were supposed to set the tax rate, but the county judge at the time usually told the board what rate he wanted and we went along with it,”Striedel said. The cost of indigent health care was becoming a tremendous burden for the county and the judge wanted to affiliate the hospital with the Memorial Hospital System in Houston (now Memorial- Hermann Healthcare System. Striedel, Corky Cochran and James Marvin Windham all opposed the move and the former judge saw to it they were not re-elected when their terms expired, according to Striedel. Striedel left the board in 1983 and was honored for his service. He rejoined the board of managers for Polk County Memorial Hospital for another three year term from 1991 to 1994. In 1994 the hospital changed names to Memorial Medical Center- Livingston and became part of the Memorial Health System of East Texas. That transition meant a new hospital and tower for Livingston and no additional taxes. The facilities were built with funds from bonds sold by Memorial Health System of East Texas. When Striedel joined the board there were only four doctors in Livingston. Now there are more than 50 physicians with hospital privileges. In the 1970s military physicians from San Antonio staffed the emergency room, sometimes spending as much as 48 hours at a time on duty. Today’s hospital board of directors includes a diverse group of people from all demographic groups in the community, Striedel said. In addition the county judge and mayor, members of the Escapees RV Club, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, ministers, attorneys, bankers pharmacists and physicians all work together to make sure local needs are met. One of the biggest challenges current hospital officials face is planning for future needs with so much uncertainty surrounding the Healthcare Reform Act. “We know something is going to happen, but we are sure what will be,” Striedel said. He attended the hospital’s finance committee members’ three-hour meeting Thursday with a consultant discussing changes. One major fact he learned there was that noncitizens are not covered by the new legislation. “The hospital serves anybody who shows up,” he said. If they aren’t covered by Medicare or some other insurance, the hospital often gets no reimbursement for that care. “Some hospitals are sending folks somewhere else if they’re not eligible for Medicare,” he added. He has also seen phenomenal change in electric co-op business since he joined SHECO in September 1968 after 10 years with the San Patricio Electric Co-Op in Sinton. When he arrived in Livingston, lineman were still digging holes for power poles with clam-shell post hole diggers. To place a 35- to 40-foot pole, crews have to dig a hole five or six feet in the ground. “With hard work, a crew could install two poles and a transformer a day,” he said. Now that process can be completed in about 15 minutes if the pole is already equipped with the necessary fixtures. During Striedel’s tenure at SHECO he helped initiate a move to boost generating capacity and away from dependence on other power providers. He has been involved in four separate efforts to build a hydroelectric plant on Lake Livingston. A key element in the success of the current effort under way by East Texas Electrical Cooperative is the improved efficiency of turbines. “They don’t depend on falling water like you see at Niagra Falls,” he said. “These will use horizontal tubes and can generate power 24 hours a day with the flow of the river.” His daily routine includes a three mile walk at Wal-Mart at about 4 a.m. each day, after he finishes his regime of situps, pushups and weightlifting. He is a 43-year cancer survivor and has received several honors by the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event. Striedel has been married to his wife Lina for 53 years. They have raised four children, a son and three daughters. They also have six grandchildren, all of which are currently in college. The chamber will honor Striedel and other award winners at its annual banquet set for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Livingston Junior High. For tickets, call the chamber at 936-327-4929. No tickets will be sold at the door.