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Luedtke to retire after 28 years at the helm of Lasata PDF Print E-mail
Written by JOHN MORTON   
Wednesday, 28 June 2017 20:35

Longtime administrator helped county senior campus navigate rough waters

He weathered many storms during his 28 years of advocating for Ozaukee County’s Lasata Senior Living Campus in Cedarburg. Now, Ralph Luedtke is ready to soak up some sunshine.
“Both professionally and personally, I know the time is right,” Luedtke, 59, said of his decision to retire on Sept. 1 as the campus’ administrator. “I’ll be stepping down four days after my 60th birthday. I know that sounds young, but I’ve been in this industry for 37 years, first working with nursing homes.”
Professionally, what he hangs his hat on is his push for the county to not only retain the campus’ nursing home, which provided affordable care but was a money loser, but take the step to build a revenue-generating 60-unit assisted-living facility.
“That’s the highlight, when we convinced the County Board and the citizens that a county-owned (nursing) facility is essential to the community — to not have it be sold to a private entity,” Luedtke said.
“Even though we took on a tax levy, we have a real important niche here — providing the love, support and care you don’t see in a lot of communities.”
The battle was long and fierce, as many voiced a need to eliminate the campus, but in the end Luedtke’s efforts resulted in $20 million in bonds being obtained by the county to fund his dream.
“We got $10 million in 2010 to build the Crossings (assisted-living facility) and $10 million in 2015 to renovate our 50-year-old nursing home (the 136-bed Lasata Care Center),” he said.
“It felt so good to know our mission was being supported.”
He feels the same today.
“There’s strong leadership at the county level. They have good ideas and know what we’re all about,” Luedtke said. “I’m certain the facilities will remain strong.”
The campus also consists of a 60-unit independent senior apartment building called Lasata Heights.
Supr. Karl Hertz, chairman of the county’s Health and Human Services Committee that oversees the Lasata campus, is among those who appreciated Luedtke’s unyielding drive.
“He has such compassion for the people he serves and who lived there,” said Hertz, who has worked with Luedtke for about 10 years. “This was his mission in life. No doubt about it. He really threw himself into this, always with a smile and with enormous energy. He was the guiding light for all of this.”
Hertz also points to Luedtke’s expertise in the industry as a convincing factor.
“He truly has insight into the three levels — the independent, the assisted living and the nursing care. I mean, he had really keen insight on how to properly cover people in their later years,” Hertz said.
“When we finally built the assisted living facility, it was partly because he was aware how the industry had evolved. Some counties stayed with the traditional nursing-home model but they weren’t sustainable. He saw this. He saw the trends.
“In this day, when everyone is worried about how tax dollars are spent, he kept the elected officials aware of this, even though we came and went. But he was always there.”
Now, he’s down to just a couple of months.
Privately, Luedtke looks forward to enjoying his new condo in Port Washington with the peace of mind that the campus is on solid ground. Part of that comes knowing Amanda Kohal, Luedtke’s assistant administrator of nearly six years, is ready to take the helm. The Health and Human Services Committee recently accepted Luedtke’s recommendation of Kohal as his replacement.
“That helped with my decision (to retire),” Luedtke said of Kohal. “It’s worked out well. She has good ideas and is very ambitious.
“It’s time for someone else to be in charge, and it’s nice to know it’s her.”
Kohal said her time with Luedtke paves the way for the transition.
“He has led by example in our mission to support people in all aspects of their lives,” she said. “He clearly taught me our campus priority remains the same in whatever we do — taking great care of people, including residents, tenants, staff and each other.
“His door was always open to everyone,  and I hope to lead Lasata with the same heart and soul Ralph did for over 28 years.”

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