“We’re very excited to have someone of his talent and his capability, someone that’s within our community, someone that understands what it takes to take our system to a new level,” said Randall Bentley, chairman of WellStar’s board of trustees. “We’re very, very excited.”
Jennings, who reports to work on Monday, received a standing ovation from the board after they voted to hire him.
“I appreciate that vote of confidence,” Jennings said. “I’m real excited about the opportunity to start Monday.”
He received a five-year contract composed of an initial term of three years and two one-year renewal options.
The contract pays an annual base salary of $975,000, in addition to a bonus that could range from 35 to 65 percent of his annual salary, depending on his performance, Bentley said.
By comparison, Bentley said WellStar’s last CEO, Dr. Greg Simone, earned a base salary last year of $900,000.
Other benefits included in Jennings’ contract are:
n Thirty annual paid vacation days, in addition to six holidays.
n Payment for time lost from a serious health condition with proper medical certification.
n Annual automobile allowance: $12,000.
n Annual cell phone allowance: $2,400.
n Annual physical exam allowance: $800.
n Annual financial planning/tax preparation services: $3,000.
n Because Jennings has existing medical and dental coverage and did not want to participate in the benefits plan offered by WellStar, WellStar will also pay him an annual $12,000 allowance for this reason.
The contract also provides for life insurance, a retirement savings plan and long-term disability benefits.
A native of Dalton, Jennings, 65, had his first job after earning a degree in pharmacy at the University of Georgia working for former Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway at the Dunaway Drugs in his hometown. As chief operating officer of Tenet Healthcare from February 2004 to December 2006, Jennings was responsible for operations of Tenet’s 69 core acute hospitals and other facilities in 13 states. He spent a total of 10 years with Tenet holding various positions, including vice chairman of Tenet Healthcare Corporation from January to August 2007.
Jennings and his wife, Patsy, have been married for 44 years. They are members of the First United Methodist Church of Marietta, where he is immediate past chair of the Church Council and Patsy is a member of the altar guild. The couple has three children and seven grandchildren, all of whom live in Cobb County.
Jim Budzinski, who has served as WellStar’s interim CEO since the board abruptly fired Simone in September, and who also applied for the CEO position, now returns to his role as executive vice president and chief financial officer.
“It was a hard search,” Bentley said. “I mean, I spent a lot of time, and so did members of our search committee. I want to thank them for the time and effort they put in, as well as the other board members as far as taking their valuable time to make sure that a good selection was made and we’re in good and capable hands.”
WellStar, a not-for-profit health system, includes Cobb, Douglas, Kennestone, Paulding and Windy Hill hospitals; WellStar Medical Group; Urgent Care Centers; Health Place; Homecare; Hospice; Atherton Place; Paulding Nursing Center; and WellStar Foundation.