YMCA board makes Zdunek permanent CEO

MARQUETTE — Interim CEO Jenna Zdunek was officially elected the permanent CEO of the YMCA of Marquette County by the organization’s board of directors Monday evening, after steering the Y through a stormy transition over the last nine months.

In their first meeting of the year, the 17-member board, with one member absent, voted to keep Zdunek as CEO as their only action of the night.

Board President and founding member Michele Butler said legally, the Y could retain an interim CEO for up to a year, but the board wanted to start the new year with a new board and a new director.

“We feel that Jenna has exemplified some great leadership over the last eight months to 10 months,” Butler said. “And as a board, we felt that it was time to offer Jenna that position if she was so inclined.”

Zdunek — who has worked at the Y for 15 years, formerly as the senior health innovations director — took on the interim position at the end of March after former CEO Lisa Coombs-Gerou resigned in a scandal related to massive debt and rumors of financial mismanagement.

In an effort shouldered also by staff, founders, community members and others, Zdunek headed up a successful campaign to keep the Y afloat. Efforts have reportedly reduced the Y’s $5 million debt significantly and stabilized operations, notably in the midst of two lawsuits.

“She has handled a lot of adversity in a way that has been both humble and hopeful,” said Melissa DeMarse, director of the Y’s Reach and Rise Mentoring Program. “It takes a really special person to do all this.”

DeMarse said mending community relationships while managing operations and internal staff has required strong organizational and leadership skills.

“It’s remarkable what she’s been through, what we’ve been through, and she’s still our leader. She’s led throughout this last 10 months of regrouping, reorganizing, restructuring, mending relationships, and she’s still leading us, and she’s doing a really good job,” DeMarse said. “She’s really proven that she can do this. She can definitely lead this Y into success. I don’t have any doubt about that.”

Zdunek said she is honored, excited and appreciative of the support she has received through difficult times, adding that the Y is very blessed.

“With all of the support and a team effort, we will be able to move forward and continue making strides and accomplish what needs to be accomplished,” Zdunek said. “And you know of course we have those challenges ahead of us, but we have a great team and we’ll be able to work through those things together.”

Zdunek said that since the annual meeting in December, the Y has been able to pay off or eliminate all of its local debts, in addition to other achievements made throughout the year.

The board’s next meeting on Jan. 30 will address board committee appointments and passing the budget. The meeting Monday was to appoint the CEO and introduce new members to the Y’s history and operations, Butler said.

The board, newly appointed in December by a Y-USA advisor and community members, is retaining just two former members, Amanda Filizetti, who had served very briefly before the resignation of Coombs-Gerou and former Board President Greg Jones, who was instrumental in blowing the whistle on financial concerns, Zdunek said.

Butler said the title comes with a nominal raise for Zdunek, who realizes the circumstances and has been “gracious in how we move forward, with the Y as her best interest.”

Butler said Zdunek’s ability to talk with everybody, acknowledge mistakes and build community relationships will continue to aid her in future.

“And I believe that Jenna will stay true to the mission of the Y in regards to supplying programs and doing things that we need and that we’re capable of,” Butler said.