Skip to main content

Antonson Chosen as the North Dakota 2023 Community Star

Nov 16, 2023

National Rural Health Day In celebration of National Rural Health Day, the Center for Rural Health and National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) proudly unveils the North Dakota 2023 Community Star, Pete Antonson! Community Stars are part of an annual recognition program that honors remarkable individuals and organizations going above and beyond for rural health. Pete exemplifies the true spirit of collaboration, turning challenges into opportunities, ensuring access to quality care, and fostering a sense of unity and support within rural communities.

Pete Antonson

Pete Antonson's entire career has been dedicated to improving rural health in North Dakota. He began working at Northwood Deaconess Health Center in 1983 and slowly moved up the ranks, serving as CFO and, eventually, CEO, a position he held for 22 years until he retired in 2022. Currently he is serving in the CFO position, part time. During his tenure, Antonson made significant contributions to improving long-term care in North Dakota. He has been active on the board of the North Dakota Rural Health Association, serving as treasurer for many years, and was one of the first presidents of the organization. Pete shared his thoughts on rural communities with NOSORH.

How do you and/or your organization make a difference in rural health and positively impact the community?

We truly understand and do what we can to always put the client first. As a non-profit, we don't always choose the bottom line as the only decision criteria. In a small town, you are always linked to your community, which leadership within the organization has always understood to mean you are involved in the community. Whether that is serving on boards or committees or volunteering in other ways, we strive to engage and participate in our community. As the largest employer in Northwood, we make an economic impact over and above community engagement. Our staff live, work, have children in school, and turn over the dollars we receive for work in the community.

Describe a specific project and its successful outcomes or a time when collaboration or innovation was crucial to your success.

Early during the pandemic, the local public school approached us, asking if we could provide a school nurse for the calendar year. We specifically recruited someone we felt could meet the needs, as we had no nurses to spare, and the results were fantastic. I believe the Northwood Public School was the first school in rural Grand Forks County to have a school nurse, leading other schools to follow suit. Now, with the school seeing the continued need for a school nurse, they have hired their own.

Describe any challenges your organization has encountered and how you overcame them.

Rural health is under a lot of strain and pressure. We have a situation that we believe is the best of both worlds. We are an independent organization; however, we leverage a management agreement with a tertiary organization to maximize resources and purchasing power. It has also been important to create a culture where voices are heard and opinions can be shared freely without judgment.

What does the "Power of Rural" mean to you?

Many minds make for great thought and discussion. If we harness the energy, brain power, and spirit of our people, we can be far more nimble, move quickly, and be less burdened by the bureaucracy of larger organizations.

What inspired you to choose a career in rural health?

It started as my one and only job offer that blossomed into more. I found that working in my hometown could help make a difference in the health of people and families I grew up with. Small towns are a great place to raise a family. Small towns are the spirit and vibrancy of our state and country.