The youngster growing up in Birmingham, Ala., planned on being a motorcycle cop.
But a small twist of fate set him on another career path.
Once Doug Luckett started climbing the ladder in the health care profession, he didn’t stop. In December 2010, he joined Gastonia-based CaroMont Health as executive vice president/chief operating officer.
Luckett, 47, had been serving as interim CEO but recently accepted an offer from the CaroMont board of directors to become president and chief operating officer.
CaroMont Health is the parent company of CaroMont Regional Medical Center, a private, nonprofit hospital. With nearly 4,000 employees, CaroMont Health is the largest employer in Gaston County.
I’ve spoken with Luckett a few times during the years but knew next to nothing about him.
Taking time out of his busy schedule, he told me the story of a fascinating journey.
It began in the steel mill town of Birmingham.
Luckett’s dad sold cars. And while an uncle worked as an engineer at a hospital facility and Luckett thought hospitals were interesting, cars were his real love.
Tooling around town in a 1970 opal GT, Luckett thought he was big stuff.
At W.A. Berry High School, he wrestled and played drums in the marching band. He was also a drummer in rock bands with names like The Barking Tribe.
Luckett said there was no money for college so he joined the Army. Until then, he’d never been outside of Alabama.
The Army changed that. After basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., Luckett was assigned to the First Armored Division’s 52th Infantry in Bamberg, Germany.
He drove an armored personnel carrier, worked in the company supply, did “whatever they needed me to do,” Luckett said.
On his time off, he bicycled around or took trains to places like Munich, getting to know the country and liking it a lot.
Luckett liked the Army, calling it a great experience.
When the two-year hitch ended in 1986, he got out, intending to follow his original goal of becoming a motorcycle police officer.
Arriving back in Birmingham he’d hoped to get into the latest training cycle the local police academy.
As things turned out, he just missed the cycle and had to wait for the next one.
Meanwhile, fate intervened.
One Sunday, Luckett stopped by to see his aunt and met a young couple who’d come to take her to church. They struck up a conversation and the man told Luckett about recently completing a radiologic technology program at the local community college.
The visitor made it sound so interesting that Luckett decided to give the program a try. He enrolled at Jefferson State Community College.
The winds had blown him in another direction.
In 1989, Luckett began his health care career as a radiologic technologist. He worked his way up in the profession, serving as chief administrative officer for the 349-bed Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Fla., and the 291-bed Cape Coral Hospital in Cape Coral, Fla.
And he earned his bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his MBA at the University of Memphis.
If Luckett hadn’t dropped by his aunt’s house that day and arrived before the couple drove her to church, he might be a police officer patrolling in a motorcycle.
Instead, he’s the boss at CaroMont.
Here are a few things you might like to know about the new CEO. He still likes motorcycles and rides his 2004 Harley around the state and country. Cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway is a favorite route, along with jaunts into South Carolina. Luckett is looking forward to exploring eastern North Carolina on his Harley.
Also, he’s a private pilot and owns a 1976 Cessna.
“I love to fly,” Luckett said. “It’s very peaceful up there, and this is a beautiful state.”
Drums are still a passion, and he hopes to find time to play again.
Luckett attends Gastonia’s Bethlehem Church.
Before he took the CEO job on a permanent basis, Luckett said he had to check with the CEO at home – his wife, Yvonne. She gave the go-ahead.
Luckett wants CaroMont to do a better job of taking care of the community and also be more transparent.
“We’re going to be stronger,” he said. “People want us to be strong.”
This has been a tough year for CaroMont. Challenges included the firing of the former CEO, a failed public relations campaign and an unpopular hospital name change.
Gaston County Commissioner Jason Williams, who also serves on the CaroMont board of directors, said Luckett was “able to unify our board, staff, physicians through all the turmoil and provided guidance and leadership.”
I think Luckett understands the community and is connected with it. I hope he accomplishes great things in his new role.
Joe DePriest: 704-868-7745; firstname.lastname@example.org
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