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Picayune People: Fifth-generation rancher Hatch Smith Jr. takes over Llano hospital

Hatch Smith Jr.

Hatch Cummings Smith Jr. stands with some of the Brahman and Tarentaise cattle on his Llano ranch. Photo by Dakota Morrissiey

A fifth-generation Llano cattle rancher now runs the Llano Memorial Hospital. Both are traditions in Hatch Cummings Smith Jr.’s family. 

“Growing up, my grandfather D.P. Smith was a huge supporter and on the Llano Hospital Foundation board,” Smith said. “This hospital was his favorite endeavor outside his own business.”

Smith was recently named chief executive officer and administrator of MidCoast Central, which took over the Llano Hospital as of January 1. 

“Once I saw (the hospital) was going away, I started going through the Rolodex,” Smith said. 

He was feeding his cattle when he called another rancher and friend, Nathan Tudor, who just happened to be chief executive officer of MidCoast Health System.  

“He and I are into Brahman cattle,” he said. 

Smith introduced Tudor to David Willmann, treasurer of the Llano County Hospital board of directors, and then bowed out — or so he thought. Once the partnership came together, Tudor called Smith and offered him the CEO job.

“I’d given all my suits and investment-type wear to Goodwill,” said Smith, who worked on Wall Street in New York and then in banking in Boston and Dallas. 

A graduate of Llano High School in 2000, Smith has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in New York State, where he played defensive end on the Ivy league school’s football team. He also has a Master in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

He opened his own business in Boerne in 2014 before moving back to Llano four years ago to take over the family ranch. He started RedSmith Genetics in Llano, which studies embryo transfers, artificial insemination, and early pregnancy checks in cattle and horses. While doing all of that, he overhauled the more-than-300-acre ranch and Llano Livestock Auction that has been in his family for five decades.  

But back to the hospital deal.

“The board said, ‘This is absolutely perfect. Hatch loves Llano. He’ll be an advocate for us,’” Smith said. “Nathan knows me as a personal friend. They have a guy they can trust.”  

To say Smith is energetic and loves to multitask are understatements. Like his grandfather D.P. Smith, he doesn’t waste time because he doesn’t have any to waste. He has found how to balance his commitment to the hospital, to his family, and to his family business.

“It’s managing people and my risk,” he said. “It’s like any other business; a business with a focus on customer service. If you focus on customer service, the other will work out.”

Smith focuses his ranch on two valuable cattle breeds. Using the generations-old family business name D.P. Smith and Son for the majority of his operation, he raises Brahman cattle, which are valued for their meat, and Tarentaise from the French Alps. 

“They make a certain kind of cheese and milk,” Smith said about the latter. “In the United States, they’ve been more focused on beef.” 

The cattle help him deal with the stresses of the suit-and-tie world he returned to this year.

“It’s therapeutic to get away from the real world of politics and news,” he said. “It’s an outlet. I grew up on the ranch and loved it. It’s fascinating to me.” 

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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