Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bay Pines VA gets new director

SEMINOLE — A 17-year employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs has been named the new chief of the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, the agency said.

Suzanne M. Klinker, director of the VA medical center in Battle Creek, Mich., is expected to take her new post at Bay Pines in Seminole within 45 to 60 days, VA officials said.

The appointment comes a year after the retirement of Wallace Hopkins as Bay Pines director. The search for a new director was delayed when another candidate accepted the position only to later turn it down.

Klinker, unavailable for an interview on Wednesday, released a brief statement.

"I am excited to have the opportunity to serve at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System," she said. "It will be my privilege and honor to work alongside its employees serving the veterans of southwest Florida with integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect, and excellence."

Klinker, 43, who holds a master's degree in management, has held a variety of posts at VA facilities in Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, New York and, most recently, Michigan, where she served as the director of a VA facility for about three years.

"Her sound leadership qualities and proven experience will be valuable assets for (Bay Pines), the employees, the volunteers and most importantly, for the veterans we are honored to serve," VA regional director Nevin Weaver said in a statement.

The delay in selecting a new Bay Pines director had drawn the attention of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, who had urged VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to speed up the process.

"Too often, temporary leadership brings with it the deferral of important decisions until a permanent director comes aboard, and I fear that this can create long-term problems for Bay Pines," Young said in the letter to Shinseki earlier this year.

Young was not immediately available to comment late Wednesday.

Bay Pines is the fourth-busiest veterans hospital in the nation. It oversees the health care of more than 97,000 veterans, has a budget of $600 million and a staff of 3,800 employees. The Bay Pines director oversees facilities from Palm Harbor to Fort Myers.

In a 2009 story in the Battle Creek Enquirer, Klinker was described as an orderly person who kept an immaculate desk.

Organization, she told the newspaper, "is my middle name."

William R. Levesque can be reached at or (813) 226-3432.

Bay Pines VA gets new director 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 8:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Man taken into custody after live streaming drive along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police took a man into custody Thursday afternoon after, they said, he drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]