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Broccolino, the face of Howard County General, retires after 24 years as CEO

When Victor Broccolino talks about his upcoming retirement, he doesn't mention hobbies or exotic travel, or taking it easy or doing more reading.

No, the president and CEO of Howard County General Hospital for the past 24 years — more than half of its existence — talks about seeing more of his family, especially his 11 grandchildren. And, he talks, only half-kiddingly, about taking a part-time job as a greeter at Walmart.

Broccolino, in other words, talks about spending a lot of time with people. And that's no surprise to those who know the hospital executive with the outsized, outgoing personality.

Evelyn Bolduc, a member of the hospital's board of trustees from 2001-2013 and chairman for the last two, said Broccolino's warmth and friendliness probably played a part in his hiring in 1990.

"Howard County General did not have a sterling reputation when he took over," said Bolduc, who has lived in Howard County since 1973 — the year the hospital opened. "They'd had some bad press. They needed somebody who could get out and sell the hospital to the public, and Vic was the right person for that job. He's done that 1,000 percent."

Nancy Smith, senior director of patient care services at the hospital, who has known Broccolino since he began working at Howard County General in 1990, called Broccolino "one of the true charismatic people on this earth. We pity the person who has to follow him."

She added, "Vic is so good with people; I think it's because he likes people so much."

Broccolino, who officially retires from the top job at Howard County's only hospital on Wednesday, Jan. 15, would not dispute the point.

"I just love being around people," he said in a recent interview. "I can't help myself."

Broccolino, 71, already has had a few offers for part-time work, including jobs as a greeter at a local car dealership and as a maître d' at a local restaurant. In addition, he said, he and his wife will be doing volunteer work "somewhere we can be around a lot of people."

Broccolino said he realized a couple of years ago he was ready to stop working full-time.

"In 2012, my wife and I attended about 30 wakes or funeral services, and the overwhelming majority were younger people," he said. When the deaths continued the following year, including the death of his best friend, Broccolino knew it was time to go.

"Plus I have 11 grandchildren I want to see more of," he added, noting that all 11, who range in age from 5 to 22 years, live in the area. "And, my wife hasn't seen too much of me for the past 53 years."

Broccolino will be succeeded by Steven C. Snelgrove, an executive with the Wake Forest Baptist Health System since 1989.

'Brains of the family'

Broccolino was born and raised in Baltimore, the oldest of three boys born to Italian immigrants. One of his brothers is Dario Broccolino, Howard County's state's attorney; the other, Livio Broccolino, is a retired attorney.

"Vic" Broccolino, as everyone calls him, majored in business administration at the University of Baltimore and earned a master's degree in business administration from Loyola College. He worked in the banking industry for several years before becoming controller at Franklin Square Hospital and later Bon Secours Health Corp.

He eventually was named CEO at Bon Secours and in 1990, was hired as president and CEO of Howard County General. He lives in Catonsville with his wife of more than 50 years.

Dario Broccolino recalled the three brothers' Baltimore upbringing as "pretty Spartan," with a loving but demanding mother. "There was lots of tough love," he said. "She wouldn't praise us much; though we found out that she praised us to our relatives."

Dario Broccolino said he was not surprised by his older brother's success. He said their mother insisted that her three boys "always do the right thing and give back. And don't draw a lot of attention to yourself."

Moreover, he said, his brother "was always the brains of the family. There's no discussion on that. His report cards would always put ours to shame."

Alvin Powers, who was director of Bon Secours Health Corp. when Victor Broccolino worked there and who evolved into the younger man's mentor and friend, called Broccolino a smart "people person" with a strong work ethic.

"He's a great guy," said Powers, who is retired and lives in Florida. He called Broccolino an asset to the health care industry and said he was proud of his accomplishments in the field.

Working with community

During Broccolino's quarter-century at the hospital, Howard County General doubled in size, became part of the Johns Hopkins Health System and added a raft of new or expanded facilities and services, including a new pediatric unit, an emergency department three times as large as its predecessor, and a new medical pavilion.

But what stands out about his work in Howard County, Broccolino said, was "the sense of collaboration I've felt with the community." Howard County's abundance of nonprofits willing and able to help the hospital was a welcome change from his prior experience working in downtown Baltimore, he said.

"Here, the people really want to be involved and have the wherewithal to be involved," he said. "That was very positive."

One of his greatest single achievements, he said, was integrating the hospital more into the community, which was one of the charges he made when he was hired.

"The hospital had been here 17 years," he said. "But there was a feeling among the board members that we really just weren't that well-known."

Asked what he was most proud of during his tenure, however, Broccolino returns to the people.

"The people who work here and the staff … I'm most proud of them," he said, "and the service we've given to the community." He calculated that during his 24 years, more than 2 million people visited the hospital seeking care.

Del. Liz Bobo, who was county executive when Broccolino came to Howard County General, said the retiring CEO "Is inextricably entwined with the hospital.

"You think of the hospital, you think of Vic Broccolino," she said: "his knowledge, his energy, his outgoing personality — knowing everyone, remembering names. He gave a whole lot of energy to the hospital. … He's done a great job."

What's next?

Dario Broccolino said he was worried about his brother coping with retirement because he's been so focused on his job for the past 24 years. "He hasn't developed any real outside activities — no golf, no tennis," said Dario.

"Of course, I'll have a lot of work for him to do this year, with my running for re-election," he added. "And he has those 11 grandchildren."

Victor Broccolino agrees that he isn't ready to quit the working world entirely. After a couple of months of retirement, he said, he expects to be working part-time again.

"I can't go cold turkey," he said. "After 53 years of working, I'm not going to stop overnight. I just can't.

"I always said that in retirement, if I couldn't be in health care administration, I would love to be either a conductor of an orchestra, teach kids or be the greeter at Walmart; or a bagger at Giant Food — I mean, just to be with people."

While Broccolino is not sure what his next job will be, one thing is certain: It won't be with Howard County General. At least not now.

"My ideal job would be to work the front desk at the hospital here," he said. "But I couldn't do that to my successor.

"So I'll wait a few years and when it becomes 'Vic Who?' then I'll volunteer here."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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