Stacy Wrightsman is the executive director of community relations at Sanford Health. Here, she shares her background in human resources, her current role in community relations and the importance it holds, and her belief that Sanford Health employees are, by far, its “best ambassadors.”
Early life and educational background
Wrightsman grew up in Round Lake, Minnesota, a small town located in southwestern Minnesota, roughly two miles north of the Iowa border and just a short drive from Worthington, Minnesota, where Sanford Health operates a medical center and clinic.
Her family would travel to “the big city” of Sioux Falls a few times a year for back-to-school shopping, to visit the zoo and for other activities. “I had a great childhood,” she said.
Graduating with a class of just 26 students, Wrightsman then enrolled at Mankato State University. As a proud Maverick, Wrightsman majored in industrial/organizational psychology, with a minor in human resources. She also competed in the long jump and triple jump on Mankato State’s track team.
In the summer, she would take classes, work part-time and stay in shape at the Fieldhouse on campus. Fun memories of being on campus in the summertime include sharing the Mankato State campus with her beloved Minnesota Vikings. “I would run into Chris Carter riding his bike across campus — it was really fun to see the guys,” Wrightsman said.
Joining Sanford Health
Following graduation, Wrightsman returned home, which placed her in closer proximity to Sioux Falls. In August 1999, she applied for a job at Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford USD Medical Center) as a benefits representative and was hired.
“Sioux Valley was a larger organization with a lot of opportunities,” Wrightsman said. This, along with her internship experience at the Mankato Clinic, part of the Mayo Health System, led her to apply.
“I could be in HR anywhere. But being exposed to a clinic or health care system in college led me to recognize their deeper mission and made it more natural for me to apply,” she said.
She estimates at the time that there were 15 people in human resources, located in the basement of Medical Building 2.
“If you were an applicant at the time and you found where to apply, that was a feat in itself,” she said.
After being promoted to benefits specialist and working in that position for a time, Wrightsman moved outside of Sioux Valley for about a year and a half to be the HR manager for a small call center in Sioux Falls.
“I pretty quickly realized that health care is a field that has more meaning for me personally. So coming back to Sanford Health was a no-brainer,” she said.
While Wrightsman was away, Sioux Valley received its transformational gift from Denny Sanford and became Sanford Health. When she came back to Sanford, it was in a public affairs role rather than a human resources role.
“There was so much familiarity and comfort with my fellow colleagues that coming back was like coming home,” she said.
Wrightsman says it was an exciting time to be in public affairs given that the organization had just rebranded and was therefore looking at logos, wordmarks and brand personality.
Roles and responsibilities
The primary function of community relations is to connect with external stakeholders. (As of July 1, the Public Affairs Department is now the Community Relations Department.)
“Community relations is designed to update, educate and clarify things that are taking place within Sanford Health — talking about why we’re doing the things that we’re doing,” Wrightsman said.
In her role, Wrightsman also manages the Community Dividend Fund. This is money that Sanford Health invests back into the communities it serves — and not just in its four major hubs. The organization also funds projects that “are the spark in small rural communities,” she said. Wrightsman estimates that Sanford Health currently gives to roughly 700 organizations.
Another responsibility of her position is to be involved in the community and to encourage others at Sanford Health to get involved, including taking on volunteer leadership positions on community boards and committees.
Wrightsman most enjoys working with nonprofit leaders whose mission is to help meet the basic needs of those in our community. “They’re amazing. Those stories are the ones I want to get out, and how Sanford Health is a part of many of those stories. Our team is blessed with seeing this all the time, and we have the great fortune to play a part in the good that is happening in our communities,” she said.
Wrightsman also finds joy in networking with people around the community, especially meeting face-to-face.
“Experiencing life with other people in a very real way is something that delights me,” she said. “That human connection I fear is going away, and it’s something I want to foster in our culture at Sanford Health.”
This includes interacting with Sanford employees as well, who Wrightsman says are not only part of the community but are Sanford Health’s “best ambassadors.”
Accomplishments and future goals
The evolution of the department from just a few people to a full team is one of the accomplishments Wrightsman is most proud of. It began from a concept about connecting with the community. Now it is a fully realized team that helps the organization practice corporate responsibility, an essential part not only of the Sanford Health legacy but also in employee recruitment and retention.
Eyeing the future, Wrightsman would like to build a more robust intranet presence to make community relations more available and accessible to the internal Sanford Family.
“We’re all in the business of community relations,” she said. “If someone wants to get involved in the community, they need to know that there’s a team there to help them connect the dots. We really want to build out our whole volunteerism structure.”
Likewise, she would like to build the department’s external web presence to show what is being done in the community. It would tell the story of how Sanford’s involvement positively impacts communities large and small.
Family life, hobbies and interests
Wrightsman lives with her husband, Dan, and her two sons, Gavin, a second grader, and Nolan, a kindergartner, in Brandon, South Dakota. They have an 11-year-old golden retriever named Bullhead.
The Wrightsmans enjoy being outdoors, whether it’s at a park or just outside the house on the patio with a cold beverage. They like to attend Minnesota professional sports. “The Wild, the Twins and the Vikings — we like to go to those games, and sports are always on the TV at home,” she said. She and her husband also attend their sons’ baseball games.
Though she works in community relations, Wrightsman identifies herself as an “extroverted introvert.”
“I do like to retreat at home. I like to run. It’s cathartic for me. I need my quiet time.”
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