"We haven't gone with any time frame but want to hire the best person we can," James Rust said. "Some have interviewed, but we haven't found someone to this date."
He added, "If the right person fell into place in the next few days we'd have that person on board in a relatively short time."
Wente announced last July that he plans to retire from Southeast Missouri Hospital at the end of next month. He joined the hospital's senior leadership team in 1975 and became the 10th chief executive officer of the hospital Jan. 1, 1991.
Wente said he'll remain as chief executive officer until someone is hired.
St. Louis-based Grant Cooper & Associates was hired last fall to conduct the national search. Rust said the familiarity of managing partner Dale Meier, a Southeast Missouri native, with the area and the firm's reputation as a top medical recruiter were deciding factors for choosing Grant Cooper & Associates over two other firms.
Founded in 1957, the search firm has recruited personnel for companies in health care, manufacturing, not-for-profit and financial services. Meier and fellow managing partner Jim Schmidt are the two main people from the firm who are involved in the search for Wente's replacement.
While Meier would not disclose names of candidates they've interviewed because of confidentiality, he said they've contacted administrators from around the country.
"The task of the search committee is to find someone who can come in and represent the hospital as well as Jim Wente has for so many years well into the future," Meier said.
"What we've been engaged to do is look for candidates with skill levels sufficient to building the success of the hospital and have done so in communities not unlike Cape Girardeau, where the city is a big part of the person's lifestyle," he added.
Dave Dillon, president of the Missouri Hospital Association, said it is common for institutions like Southeast Missouri Hospital to hire national search firms.
"Hospitals are so large, complex and require the expertise of an executive to manage the organization," Dillon said. "And with someone who has the 30-plus years of experience at Southeast Missouri Hospital that James Wente had, it is all the more important for the hospital to have the right firm to conduct the search."
1701 Lacey St., Cape Girardeau, MO