New leader says YMCA is ‘here to stay’

The Greenwich YMCA continues to build momentum with the hiring of Edward Philipp as chief executive officer of the organization last week.

After battling delayed renovations to the facility and inconsistent leadership in recent years, the YMCA is moving forward again by resuming its renovations and hiring Mr. Philipp. According to Jim Cabrera, chairman of the board for the organization, the search for a new leader began in April. Eight members of the board were selected as a special search committee in charge of recruiting the new CEO and after reviewing 20 qualified candidates, the selection committee, along with the rest of the board, unanimously voted for Mr. Philipp.

The search for a new CEO focused on finding an individual who knew how to expand programs and memberships, Mr. Cabrera said. Mr. Philipp was just the man for the job, having created a number of programs both inside and outside of the Rye, N.Y., YMCA, where he is currently the chief operating officer, he added.

 

The election of a new CEO will allow interim CEO Charlie Leigh and interim COO Dale Lucian to return to their respective positions as chief financial officer and chief of staff. The pair were outstanding leaders over the past two years, Mr. Cabrera said.

“In a very difficult time they kept morale at the highest level. They allowed us to have a break-even budget, which was probably the number one reason we were able to raise the initial capital which allowed us to restructure debt,” he said.

They are both very supportive of Mr. Philipp and look forward to working with him, he added.

Mr. Leigh cited Mr. Philipps’ many achievements in a recent press release announcing the selection of the new CEO, saying, “Ed Philipp is the right person at the right time to lead Greenwich’s YMCA into the future. He has an incredibly strong background in the ‘Y’ philosophy and programming. He has a proven track record of growing the Rye YMCA’s membership and developing programing that is integral to the community. I know he will be successful in bringing those experiences to Greenwich.”

According to Mr. Philipp, accepting the position was an easy decision.

“I’ve been looking to take the next step in my career and it doesn’t get much better than not having to move your family when you’re able to take that next step, so that’s part of it,” Mr. Philipp said. “It’s also a huge opportunity for me to come in and help lead the staff and the board to new heights.”

Mr. Philipp first became involved with the YMCA as a college student. His mother was a group exercise instructor at the YMCA in his hometown of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where he was able to secure an internship. After graduating college, Mr. Philipp pursued his love of the organization, working as a YMCA fitness center director for three years and eventually landing his position as COO of the organization’s facility in Rye in 2003.

With 15 years of YMCA experience under his belt, Mr. Philipp now looks forward to the challenges of his new role.

“I want to focus on making sure that the Y is recognized as a cause-driven organization and not as a ‘gym and swim’ because that’s not what we are ,” Mr. Philipp explained. “We will help you learn to swim and exercise, but we’re so much more than that. The community can expect a more responsive Y and one that’s going to be viewed as a community partner and eventually a community center,” although it won’t happen overnight.

Although Mr. Philipp cannot yet name specific changes that will take place under his leadership, he plans to improve the Greenwich YMCA as much as possible.

“Somebody once told me ‘You cannot make improvements without making change,’ so change will happen,” Mr. Philipp said. “But change won’t happen for the sake of change either.”

Although Rye and Greenwich share many similarities, “The great thing about the Y is that they’re there to serve the needs of the community, so the Greenwich Y doesn’t have to operate exactly like the one in Rye. They can operate according to the needs of the community,” Mr. Philipp said.

Greenwich will be a great environment to work in because it is diverse, he said. “You’re serving all ages, all demographics, and that’s how you become a community center, when you serve everybody in the community and they’re all on equal footing.”

One of his central goals, Mr. Philipp said, is to build relationships among YMCA members. “Community is all sorts of things,” he said. “It’s the guys that swim at 5:30 in the morning, and there’s the community of ladies who take the group exercise classes, and there’s the larger community at whole. So it’s all about building many, many communities” in Greenwich, he said.

As for the instability in the Greenwich facility’s recent past, Mr. Philipp said he is not concerned. As with any organization, “When you come into it, the past is the past,” he said.

Accepting his new position is an opportunity for the YMCA to start anew and “show the community that we’re here to stay,” he said. Work on the long delayed renovations are finally beginning again and the hope is that they will be completed by the end of September.

While Mr. Philipp will not officially take on his role as CEO until Aug. 20, he will spend the summer getting up to speed with the organization. With plans to attend several executive meetings and to meet with each board director individually before his official start, Mr. Philipp said he is ready to hit the ground running. And when he arrives, “We’re going to work hard to earn the trust and earn memberships from the people of Greenwich” by promoting member services and programs offered, he said.

“I’m the kind of guy that’s going to come in, put his head down, roll his sleeves up and do the job,” Mr. Philipp explained. “I’m looking forward to it.”

 

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