Northern Inyo Healthcare District (NIHD) recently welcomed its second new Board of Directors member within two months.
Ted Gardner, sworn in Jan. 18, and Melissa Best-Baker, sworn in last month, are both appointees completing existing terms on the five-member Governing Board. They join Mary Mae Kilpatrick,
Jean Turner, and Jody Veenker in maintaining the policy administration needed to operate the 76-year-old District, one of the oldest healthcare districts in the state.
While the long-time Bishop resident is the newest to the existing Board, Gardner is no stranger to the District, having served eight years previously on the Board. He also represented the District
on the Association of California Healthcare Districts (ACHD) and has administrative experience in the physical therapy practice owned and operated by his late wife, Patricia.
Aware of the open position in Zone III, Gardner stepped forward, feeling he could contribute in a challenging fiscal time for the District. “I hope to bring a perspective that balances the healthcare needs of the community with the ability to be always aware of ﬁnancial restraints,” Gardner said Monday during an interview.
“Every individual has three hopes in receiving healthcare: choice, access, and quality. Choice is the ability to choose a particular provider. Access is the ability to have a provider that does not
require a lot of travel. Quality is being able to receive the best healthcare. It is sometimes diﬃcult to have all three of the hopes fulﬁlled in a rural area.”
Retired from law enforcement, Gardner said he feels prevention is essential, whether it is best practice COVID-19 procedures or drug addiction. “I hope to be able to make informed decisions
after receiving recommendations from the CEO and Medical Staﬀ,” Gardner said.
Gardner’s appointment ends in November 2024. He intends to stand for election to the board at that time.
Melissa Best-Baker grew up in Round Valley and chose to make Big Pine her home. She is the Deputy Director of Fiscal Oversight and Operations for Inyo County’s Health & Human Services
department. Part of her job includes overseeing 23 budgets, consisting of grants, State and Federal funds. She is responsible for monitoring legislature changes and analyzing those effects
on current programs. She also is the trusted lead for four different financial audits within Inyo County HHS.
As for why she stepped forward to serve on the Board, Best-Baker said representation for Big Pine and the southern reaches of Bishop was key. “I wanted to ensure the District considered the
healthcare needs of the residents in my zone,” she said. “I felt it was very important to have someone with a broad overview of these needs to represent the outlying communities on the Board.”
Best-Baker said she hopes to bring “a different and open opinion” to the Board. “I also plan to use my knowledge and experiences to support the teams that provide healthcare to our
communities,” she said.
Best-Baker has an extensive community service background in education, scouting, and sports. She has given her time and talents to Eastern Sierra Cancer Alliance and AARP’s Tax-Aide
program. She also held leadership roles within the Inyo County Employees Association and is currently an Emergency Medical Technician with the Big Pine Fire Department.
Best-Baker married Chuck Baker in 2006, and together they have three children. She also expressed an interest in standing for election to a full term when her appointment ends in
Board Chair Mary Mae Kilpatrick said the board’s focus turns to selecting a permanent Chief Executive Officer and addressing the District’s turbulent finances. Two CEO candidates are
scheduling on-campus visits in the coming weeks. The Board hopes the new CEO will be in place by March.
“The addition of two Board members was greatly needed,” Kilpatrick said. “Having Melissa’s background in finances and Ted’s experience as a former Board member not only will strengthen
our Board, but will be a great asset to our District and our community. Both have had years of experience in California healthcare and we are very fortunate to have them join our team.”
In addition to Chair Kilpatrick, Board officers for 2023 include Vice Chair Best-Baker, Secretary Gardner, and Treasurer Jean Turner. The fifth Board member, Jody Veenker, will serve in the