New YMCA Director hits ground running

By Joseph Slacian

The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for Dean Gogolewski, the new CEO of the Wabash County YMCA.

Gogolewski began his new position on Feb. 25, replacing former CEO Clint Kugler, who joined the Indiana Youth Institute, where he will serve as Vice President of College Career and Community Initiatives.

“I’m acclimating, getting to know everybody,” Gogolewski told The Paper of Wabash County during a recent interview at the YMCA. “It’s an intentional discovery period.

“I’ve been making my way around town. Jay Driskill (the Y’s Vice President of Mission Advancement) has been phenomenal in getting me around town. It’s definitely been a whirlwind tour.

“I’m not done. I’ve got two more weeks of meet and greets. It’s going to be good to get to know the key players and folks that make Wabash such a great community.”

Gogolewski comes to Wabash from Ohio, where he has spent 15 years working with YMCAs there.

“I was with the YMCA of Central Stark County for 13 years,” he said. “I started out as child care director, then moved up to associate executive director, got my first executive director post when we opened the Eric Snow Family YMCA in downtown Canton.

“Then through a management agreement I moved out to the Orrville YMCA, it was a struggling branch that was on the verge of closing. They reached out to Central Stark County and they agreed to help out. As they were looking for executive directors, I had interest in the area; I was fortunate enough to get the position and we ended up saving the YMCA.”

A Purdue University graduate, Gogolewski was familiar with Northeast Indiana. He settled in Ohio after meeting his wife, Julie, and it is there they have raised their two children, Ryan, 19, and Rachel, 17.

“We are at the point of our life where it’s time to settle down in a wholesome area, so that’s what we want to do,” he said.

“When we decided it was time to start looking around, Wabash popped up and from what I read it was very intriguing, so I started doing a lot more research on Wabash. That just made it all the more desirable to be here.”

The community’s historical background was one of the selling points, he said.

“I think historically, being the first electrically lit city, was very intriguing,” Gogolewski said. “We love history. We’re kind of a rustic in nature kind of family. When you talk about community engagement, involvement and having history, Wabash seemed to stand out, especially with Grow Wabash County and Marketplace.”

While not meeting people around Wabash, Gogolewski has spent some time learning about the history of the local organization. Before becoming a YMCA, the organization was known as Wabash Community Service.

“I’m learning about Community Service and how it was at the Honeywell Center, and that’s amazing,” he said. “The YMCA history doesn’t start in 2000 when we were chartered. It goes back to 1941. It was amazing.

“For the community to recognize a need for a separate organization to do what the Y does and let Honeywell do what it does, I thought that was a bold move.”

Gogolewski said he’s not really set any goals for the local facility yet.

“It’s still early,” he said. “In talking with the board, they really want me to take my time and discover everything. As with my predecessor, Clint, we’ve been meeting and he’s given me the institutional knowledge about what things have gone on and what programs and processes are in place. That’s really good.

“Someone once told me, ‘You’ve got to know why the fence was built before you tear it down.’ It’s good to really get a good understanding why things are the way they are before you came in.”

As for now, though, there are some important anniversaries looming in the future. The YMCA will mark its tenth year in the local facility later this year, and 2025 will be the 25th anniversary of becoming a Y.

Gogolewski called the local facility amazing, noting, “I don’t think a town anywhere this size has a facility like this.”

“To have a couple of basketball courts, an indoor tennis court, a walking track is great,” he continued. “Then to have two pools on top of that, and the Rehab Place, it’s just an amazing facility.

“I’m extremely excited to be here. I can’t wait for my family to join me.”

For now, they are remaining in Ohio, where his daughter is a junior in high school.

“We’ll have Rachel come out this summer,” he said. “If she comes out, likes the area, makes some friends, find things to do, she might decide to become an Apache. If she wants to remain a Golden Eagle … we’re going to let Rachel make that decision. To pull her out her senior year I don’t think would be fair to her.

“I’m only four hours away and am driving back and forth every other weekend. They’ll come out whenever they can. We’re going to make it work.”

Posted on 2019 Mar 12