Rachel Gonzales-Hanson has dedicated 36 years of her life to Community Health Development Inc. Now, after 33 years as the agency’s chief executive officer, she is stepping down to spend quality time with family.
Gonzales-Hanson said the board of directors accepted her resignation in April. She will remain with the department until a replacement is found, and throughout the new CEO’s transition period.
“They are expecting a transition time, and I plan on giving them that,” Gonzales-Hanson said, noting that she would also like to see CHDI through several upcoming projects, including the addition of three more operatories to the oral health department and the integration of the behavioral health department with the medical department.
Gonzales-Hanson said she puts in 12-13 hour work days, but it has never felt like a burden as CHDI is her passion. CHDI started off in 1983 with a budget of $400,000 and three employees. This year, the department has a budget of more than $10 million and supports 120 employees.
“This wasn’t an easy decision. I prayed about it. But I am firm believer that God leads us to the right path, we just have to know to take it,” she said, noting that she is looking forward to spending quality time with her husband, retired Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Jimmy Hanson.
Looking back at her time with CHDI, Gonzales-Hanson said she has been blessed beyond measure with the support of her staff, board of directors, the community, elected officials, private foundations and bureaucrats.
“I’ve been blessed, more than I deserve. I have had the opportunity to see things I never thought I would see, do things I never thought I would do,” she said.
When she was asked to reflect on the many accomplishments of CHDI over the years, Gonzales-Hanson said she is most proud of what the department has afforded the community.
“I was on the original board. What we’ve been able to do here… I am a strong believer in helping the community. We serve nearly 11,000 people each year. We get little thank you notes or emails from patients, and that speaks more to me than the other things that I’ve been able to accomplish,” she said. “Of course, my involvement at the state/national level is important but not as much as helping the community.”
As for her hopes for the new CEO, Gonzales-Hanson said she hopes they take CHDI to the next level.
“I hope they help grow our future leaders within our staff, that they continue to be a mainstay for health care and community wellness, overall. I hope they are responsive to the community and think outside the box for solutions,” she said. “That’s what health centers do, we are innovative. I want the foundation we built to continue to expand. I hope they bring in partners that are likeminded and are willing to help us help our community.”
When she first took on the role of CEO, Gonzales-Hanson said the board of directors encouraged her to find resources, something she said can’t be done from behind a desk.
“I was able to do that because of my staff, who took care of business here so we could bring in resources. We had credibility because of the work staff did here. Because they were able to establish a reputation. It wasn’t because of me. All the credit goes to the staff and board. It has been a dream working with them,” she said.
Gonzales-Hanson said she is also thankful for her understanding family and close friends.
“I appreciate my family and close friends, who have been so supportive all these years. Through my long work hours, showing up late for family events. They never complained because they understood it was my passion.”