After nearly 23 years at the helm, John Strange has retired as president and CEO at St. Luke's hospital, five months ahead of schedule.

The Duluth health system announced Strange's retirement on Thursday in a news release, saying it became effective on Wednesday. Strange had informed the health system's board of directors he decided to retire early to care for his family, according to the news release.

Eric Lohn, the health system's chief financial officer, has been appointed as interim president and CEO, according to the news release. He has served as chief financial officer for nearly six years and will continue in that role. Lohn previously worked for CentraCare Health in St. Cloud, Minn.

In a statement, board chairman Brian Murphy said, "We are confident in Eric's ability to lead St. Luke's until a permanent president/CEO is selected."

A search for a replacement is underway. Last year, the board hired Cejka Search, a healthcare executive recruitment firm, to assist in the search, with a goal of hiring a new president and CEO by Aug. 1. But the board is committed to taking more time, if needed, to select the health system's next leader, according to the news release.

Strange came to St. Luke's in 1992 and served as chief financial officer for more than three years. After serving as interim chief operating officer, he was named to replace Phillip Alioto as president and chief executive officer. Alioto resigned in September 1995 after seven years as CEO.

Before coming to Duluth, Strange spent 14 years in hospital and clinic management at Burlington Hospital in Burlington, Wis.