The lead administrator for the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park has announced he will retire from the position this summer.
Scott Gaalaas, 62, has served as president and CEO of the organization since 1997. For about a decade, according to a statement released by the Y, Gaalaas and his wife have been planning their retirement.
The announcement comes just as the West Cook YMCA is ramping up a massive fundraising effort to pay for a new facility to be constructed in Forest Park. For several years, Gaalaas has worked with his board of directors and Forest Park leaders to clear the way for a sprawling campus near the intersection of Madison and Van Buren. That approval was received in January.
An estimated $12 million in donations is expected to be necessary to help pay for the $17 million project.
"I'll continue to be available to consult with board, staff and volunteers of the West Cook Y as they work together to create this much needed facility that will have a profound impact on the character development, health and wellness of thousands of youth and families in the near western suburbs for decades to come," Gaalaas said in a written statement.
His last official day as president of the YMCA is slated to be June 15. The decision ends a 32-year career with the YMCA, according to the group. That career took Gaalaas to Indiana, Palatine and Oak Park. Before joining the Y, Gaalaas played semi-pro baseball for a decade, pitching for several teams in Wisconsin and the Minneapolis area.
A search committee has already been assembled to find a replacement, and the Y has posted the job through several venues, said Jim Lencioni, chair of the West Cook YMCA's board. They plan to conduct a nationwide search in conjunction with the organization's home office in downtown Chicago.
"We just want to make sure we get the best person for the position," he said. "We want to make sure we look at all of the qualified candidates."
By the end of May, the Y hopes to conduct phone interviews, followed by face-to-face ones at the beginning of June and the selection of a CEO by mid-June, Lencioni said.
Jan Pate, Oak Park village trustee and current second in command at the Y, said she's submitting her name for the position. Pate has been with the West Cook YMCA for more than three years and was promoted to vice president of development and operations about a year ago. She's been involved with various Ys the past 20 years.
"The YMCA is a huge part of my life and has been for a very long time now," Pate said. "At this point, it would be a tremendous honor and a wonderful opportunity to provide leadership in this organization."
Wednesday Journal reporter Marty Stempniak contributed to this story.