IVH commandant reflects on work to date

Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Jodi Tymeson can trace her family’s military lineage from the Revolutionary War to the present, and that factor, among others, makes her feel humbled, honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with fellow staff and volunteers to care for the facility’s approximately 600 residents.

Tymeson will celebrate her five month anniversary serving as commandant at the venerable 126-year old institution Monday.

Her job description is extensive, but in general, Tymeson described it as being responsible to provide the highest quality nursing and residential care to its residents, she said.

“As a team, staff and I are responsible to ensure resident safety and resident rights, manage an $80 million dollar budget, manage 150 acres of property and facilities, and ensure every aspect of caring for and providing services and activities for our residents.”

Specifically, the job requires a daily focus on IVH’s mission, vision and goal attainment on a daily basis.

The mission is to provide a continuum of care to Iowa’s veterans and their spouses on an environment focusing on individualized services to enhance their quality of life.

And after five months of working with the facility’s 950 staff members, and talking to residents, Tymeson, a retired brigadier general with 33 years of service in the Iowa National Guard, is pleased with results in meeting the mission, but is not resting on her laurels. Rather, her attitude is one of starting each day anew fulfilling opportunities.

Part of that is following her management style which centers on respect.

At IVH, that centers on respect for staff and residents.

“Leaders of course have to make decisions, sometimes unpopular decisions,” she said. “But something that is important is that the decision is explained whenever possible, so that the staff or residents can understand why you are having to make the decision that might be unpopular.”

Tymeson also said communication is an important part of her management style.

“It is very important to be open, to be listening to ideas which are different,” she said. “I certainly don’t have all the answers, or all of the good ideas, but there are lots of good people with good ideas here, and I’m trying to listen to those ideas, and make sure they get implemented.”

A key component to fulfilling the mission is adhering to IVH’s vision, she said. The vision is to set the national standard for excellence in long-term health care and quality of life for its residents.

The Ogden native repeatedly emphasized that the mission and vision, can only be met with a team approach, whereby staff and facility’s extensive volunteer base support both. Beginning Oct. 3, her first day on the job, Tymeson said she has focused on developing a respectful and positive living environment for residents.

In tandem, she has worked to be respectful and positive working environment for staff.

Goal setting, and goal attainment are part of her job, and she elaborated on several of the facility’s long term goals as transitioning all residents to private rooms, achieving deficiency-free surveys from all regulatory agencies and continuing facility upgrades.

IVH has made great strides in transitioning residents to private rooms, but more work needs to be done, she said.

She complimented state and federal legislators of both parties, who she said, have worked in a bipartisan fashion to help IVH meet its goals.

Tymeson moved into the commandant’s chair after serving slightly more than four months as the facility’s Chief Operating Officer under former Commandant David Worley.

Gov. Terry Branstad had appointed her to that newly created position in May, amid allegations that Worley, had intimidated and sexually harassed staff.

Those allegations are under review by the state ombudsmen, who will release a report in the future. Worley resigned Oct. 2.

Tymeson had previously visited IVH on numerous occasions in her role as head of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs, a position she had held since 2010 before being appointed COO.

She believes the governor appointed her as COO and commandant because he understands that those with a military background have a critical understanding of organizational management, the fact that she commanded at every level in the Iowa Guard, melded with her academic achievements – she holds a master’s degree in public administration.

Tymeson’s position is also a challenging in terms of political and public perception of her job performance.

Also a factor is the opinion of former employees who know how important IVH is to Marshalltown, to Iowa and to those who reside there and are dependent on its care.

One is Bob Atha of Marshalltown, who retired from IVH a number of years ago, having worked as business manager 37 years.

The dining hall at IVH is named in his honor.

He has met and talked to Tymeson and is impressed.

Atha said that he had just returned after a two month absence, but recently heard positive comments about Tymeson.

“Others, whose opinions I respect, have told me they too are impressed with her and they told me she is a good listener, among other good skills. I’m glad that she is commandant,” said Atha.

Tymeson lives in Marshalltown during the week, but drives to Winterset on weekends to join her husband of many years, John, a retired veteran with 34 years of service.

Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee, said he is impressed with Tymeson’s leadership.

“I have every confidence in and respect for commandant Tymeson,” Beall said. “She testified at our Veterans Affairs Committee and we unanimously recommended confirmation.” Tymeson is on the individual confirmation calendar, Beall said, and he doesn’t anticipate any problems with her receiving a favorable Senate confirmation vote.