It looks like it’s becoming a tradition for this magazine to feature the new chief executive officer of Oswego Health on its cover.
We featured Corte Spencer and his team on the April-May 2001 cover (although he had been a CEO since 1981); Ann Gilpin on February-March 2007; then Chuck Gijanto, on December 2015 – January 2016. In the August-September 2017 issue we featured Michael Harlovic, who retired from the position at the end of last year.
The reason they are on the cover is quite simple: These executives command great power and lead one of the largest employers in the region — the second largest private employer in Oswego County with 1,245 employees. They have the responsibility to steer the course of the organization that currently has an annual payroll of $76 million and generates $228 million in economic activity for the region. The role of the chief executive officer in this process is crucial and helps determine the performance and future of the organization.
In this issue, we feature Michael C. Backus, who became CEO on Jan. 1.
Backus is a home-grown leader who previously served as Oswego Health’s chief operating officer and executive vice president. His involvement in healthcare also includes serving as the chairman of the board at Pulaski-based ConnextCare.
It’s not the first time Backus is on the cover of Oswego County Business Magazine. In 2013 he was there as part of a group of people who had been selected as Forty Under 40 “Rising Stars,” organized by this magazine.
The 39-year-old executive has deep roots in the community. He grew up in the newspaper business. For generations, his family successfully ran the Mexico Independent Inc. (Oswego County Weeklies newspapers) until it was sold in 2016. For a while Backus wrote stories, sold advertisements for the newspapers. In 2012, at 29 years of age, he was elected to the post of Oswego County clerk, the youngest to ever hold that position in New York state. He served in that position until 2020, when he started working at Oswego Health.
Those who know Backus say he is smart, energetic, competitive, consensus builder, a people person. He describes himself as an “eternal optimist” who is a good listener — he is fond of saying that “Whoever said, ‘you have two ears and one mouth — use them in proportion’ knew what they were talking about.”
About his appointment as CEO, Ed Alberts, the chairman of the Oswego Health board, said his selection was an obvious one. “There are a few times in life when you come across a no-brainer. [Selecting Backus] falls into that category of no-brainer,” he says in the story we’re running in this issue.
Oswego Health indeed needs a strong leader right now. Competition for patients and professionals is fierce, hospitals in general are losing money (and merging with larger groups) and finding nurses and doctors has been more challenging than ever.
Wagner Dotto is the editor and publisher of Oswego County Business Magazine.