Dottie Fossel does just about everything with Ennis in mind
In a world that values individualism and independence almost to an extreme, people like Dottie Fossel are instrumental in promoting community values. Fossel is hardworking and self-reliant, but also community-minded, selfless and devoted. These characteristics come together and guide her work with the Madison Valley Medical Center and the Jack Creek Preserve.
Fossel grew up concrete-jungle-adjacent, 50 miles north of New York City, near lakes and wild turkeys. She worked as a school nurse teacher, but when her children were born she was able to be a full-time caregiver. Due to this ability, she joined a plethora of boards in her New York community, and committing time to community boards persisted.
Upon moving to Ennis, Fossel was encouraged to run for the hospital board. She did, was elected and started her first term at the old hospital. “We’re here to serve the community and to keep them well, but we couldn’t do it with the equipment needed unless the community reached out and gave to our foundation,” Fossel said, emphasizing how crucial the community was in the development of the new hospital.
Situated in an office with a big window by the main door, people walking by during the interview would wave at Fossel and she would respond with a big smile and exuberant wave. The community means so much to her, and it is obvious she means just as much to the community.
The initial move to Ennis was for reasons similar to many. Fossel and her then husband were looking for a reprieve from his investment job, and followed the wildlife, landscape and recreational components to Montana.
Fossel and her husband at the time established the Jack Creek Preserve to stand up against the fast development of Big Sky towards the Moonlight side of the mountain. They purchased just about 10,000 acres of land with the goal of preserving it for generations to come. A parcel was later sold to increase endowments for educational programs, and 4,500 acres remain.
Primarily, Fossel wanted to emphasize the importance of undeveloped, open spaces. “We wanted our children and our grandchildren to have a place to come,” she explained. A place to come free from million dollar houses, the busyness of recreation and stress.
The Madison Valley Manor and the Jack Creek Preserve encompass much of Fossel’s time in Ennis. She likes to add a personal touch to components of her jobs, writing thank you notes to donors and greeting out-of-state groups that come to tour the Preserve. “I like to talk to the kids about the history of the land and how the Preserve started and what animals they might see,” she said.
In her spare time, Fossel enjoys tennis and pickle ball. “Some of the men that I play with can do both at the same time—they can do one or the other one day, and one the next—not me,” she laughed. The game styles are too similar and she separates tennis season from pickle ball season in order not to accidentally mix techniques.
At the front desk of the hospital, Fossel had a genuine conversation with a man she knew from pickle ball. She jumped behind the front desk at one point to assist a person standing in the lobby, and conversed with the women behind the desk.
Retirement is not on the horizon for Fossel. “I really enjoy making a difference and working with our CEO and the board for the betterment of the community as best as I can,” she explained, but laughed and also said, “I think that really has to be my last one (board term).” One could say retirement for Fossel might mean cutting back on one board, but finding time for something new.