Jan Pate named YMCA CEO

Village trustee will step in to new role

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First reported 6/30/2009 2:41 p.m.
After a nationwide search with 47 respondents, the West Cook YMCA has named Jan Pate, a current Oak Park village trustee, its new president and CEO.

The Oak Park-based organization made the announcement June 30. Pate, a village trustee since 2007 and a longtime YMCA employee, officially assumed her new role July 7.

"It wasn't an easy decision," said Geri McLauchlan, chair of the YMCA's board of directors. "There were a lot of candidates, but we really felt Jan would be the best. She offered the most for our Y."

She cited Pate's knowledge, experience and passion as deciding factors in picking a new leader.

Pate, 53, has been with various YMCA organizations for more than 20 years. She takes over for Scott Gaalaas, who retired on June 15, completing a 32-year YMCA career.

After starting as a volunteer with the Florence, S.C. YMCA, Pate said it felt almost surreal to now be the boss of her own branch.

"Our lives are so funny," Pate said from Montana last week, where she was on a vacation she had planned before the CEO search started. "There's no way I could ever dream that I would be the CEO of a YMCA in Oak Park."

Pate first joined the West Cook YMCA in 2005 as director of development and was promoted to vice president for operations and development last year. She has served as interim CEO since Gaalaas left. A native of Aliquippa, Pa., she has two sons who live in South Carolina.

Pate planned to meet with staff this week to get comfortable and better acquainted with the post, she said last week. The organization is in the midst of an ambitious fundraising campaign to build a new facility in Forest Park, near Madison and Van Buren, which would replace the current Oak Park building at 255 S. Marion. The project is estimated to cost $17 million.

The YMCA is still in the "silent phase" of raising funds for its new facility and isn't yet ready to announce the current tally. The economy hasn't helped fundraising, but Pate is optimistic about the Y's future in Forest Park.

The first female CEO of the more than 100-year-old Oak Park organization, Pate says the job won't interfere with her role as village trustee.

"I don't anticipate that it will be an issue at all," Pate said. "If I was a brand new trustee who didn't know how to manage my time, it might be different."

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