Settling in

Jass-Ramirez jumps in as YMCA-YWCA CEO, looks ahead at 2023

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER — Kim Jass-Ramirez took the reins as the CEO of the Marshalltown Y in early January after Carol Hibbs retired at the end of December, and she is looking forward to all the opportunities 2023 will bring for the organization.

It’s been only a few months since Kim Jass-Ramirez took over as the CEO for the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, and she couldn’t be more excited to learn and grow alongside the organization as she gets settled in and they embark on their new strategic plan.

Previous CEO and now Marshall County Supervisor, Carol Hibbs, announced her plans to retire last year, and as a result, the Board of Directors conducted a nationwide search to find the best candidate to lead the organization once Hibbs stepped down in late December.

As it happened, they needn’t have looked any further than the Marshalltown Y, as Jass-Ramirez was already serving as the senior program and facilities director. Jass-Ramirez, who served in that role for six years, and in other capacities in other locations for over a decade, was selected in October, and spent the next several months training and learning the ropes before she took over in January.

Since Jass-Ramirez already knew the majority of staff members, she said it made for a smooth transition and, in some ways, they were able to “seamlessly move forward.” She feels she has a solid support structure to guide her as she adjusts to her new position and though Hibbs is no longer at the Y, she is still happy to answer any questions that arise. The Board of Directors have also been available to support Jass-Ramirez as she gets started.

“It’s been a great start actually,” Jass-Ramirez said. “Of course, there’s a learning curve, you know, with me, and with how we interact, and things like that, and that goes for our board as well. They’re just a talented group of people that bring so many strengths to their positions with the Y as volunteers, so I’ve just had a great group to support me.”

Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA Board Chair and Chief Volunteer Officer Nate McCormick said they are excited to work with Jass-Ramirez and are looking forward to seeing how she leads the Marshalltown Y as well as the great ideas that she will bring to the table.

“Kim’s experience, her people leadership, her ability to lead that group and that vision is something that we’re really excited about. Her engagement with the community and her engagement with the board and the staff has just been great, even in the kind of short time that she’s been in the role here,” McCormick said.

In many ways, 2023 is an exciting time for Jass-Ramirez to get started as the CEO, as it has come time to re-evaluate the Marshalltown Y’s most recent strategic plan, something she and the Board of Directors will be doing in the weeks and months to come.

Developing a new strategic plan will begin with data collection and meeting with community members to see what the Marshalltown community needs most from the local Y, but Jass-Ramirez and the Board of Directors already have some ideas of their own that they are hoping to implement this year and beyond.

McCormick is hoping to keep a focus on maintaining the facility and bringing more diverse family and youth programming to the table for members of the Y, and those goals closely align with Jass-Ramirez’s ambitions for the strategic plan. Encouraging healthy living in the community, as well as building connections between members and between Marshalltown citizens as a whole through the Y’s programming is at the forefront of their minds as 2023 unfolds.

“Part of how we grow and get stronger as a community is by getting people together and I think the Y is really sort of uniquely positioned in the community to be that bridge that brings people together, you know, not just working out and sports, but through all the programming that we offer,” McCormick said.

Jass-Ramirez said that they have made an investment in sports by hiring full time sports director, Brandon Haagsma, and recently, they began working on a sports simulation room to utilize a previously unused space in the facility. This room will have a range of sports simulations available, including golf, soccer and bowling, and Jass-Ramirez is excited for the space to pique the interest of members.

“It’s a way for people to stay active in a different way, maybe, than they have, especially with golfing. It’s something that, maybe it’s not different, but it’s something they can continue to do year-round,” Jass-Ramirez said.

In addition to taking a special interest in sports, Jass-Ramirez said they are also excited to highlight their specialty programs, which include a newly launched weight loss program.

“It seems like there’s always people looking for that support with weight loss,” Jass-Ramirez said. “We’ve got health and wellness staff with bachelor’s degrees and beyond, in exercise science, kinesiology, and things like that, that provide the educational background, but also, just the ability to support people and facilitate groups. And we’ve of course got the facilities here for people to stay active and fit however they choose.”

Maintaining and updating the facility is also a top priority, as in previous years, and McCormick wants to ensure that they continue to keep the building as up to date as possible. In 2022, new carpet was installed in the Horne-Henry Center, along with several new pieces of equipment, and while they don’t have any specific updates on the agenda for 2023 just yet, Jass-Ramirez as well as the board are continually looking for the best ways to improve the Y.

“I think that one of the things that we need to think more about is how we really work on the growth side of things. How do we understand what our community needs and what our prospective new members need, and make sure that we’re offering things that kind of fit within those needs,” McCormick said. “I think the big question that we’re all wrestling with is, what else is there that the community needs that the Y is really positioned to provide?”

Jass-Ramirez recently hired a familiar face in Andrew Potter to serve as the marketing and communications director, which is important because, in her opinion, he will be integral to telling the Y’s story and making sure that it reaches the community.

Jass-Ramirez said that other staff members may be brought on as the year continues, depending on what choices are made as she and the board develop a new strategic plan, but staff members aren’t the only people that keep the Y going year after year.

Volunteers are an integral part of many organizations and programs in the community and the Y is no exception. The Board of Directors is made up entirely of volunteers and as the chief volunteer officer, McCormick is hoping to grow the next generation of community volunteers not just for the Y but for the many groups in Marshalltown that rely on their hard work.

“When I think about what I would love to see for volunteers, (I think about) how do we grow that next generation of community minded volunteers that can come in and be leaders in both our organization and organizations all over the community?” McCormick asked.

McCormick feels that the Y is a great place for volunteers to start developing the leadership skills necessary to be successful as a volunteer and in other avenues of life as well, and he believes Jass-Ramirez will do a great job of encouraging leadership in volunteers as well as staff members.

“One of the things I’m excited about, with Kim in that role, is really working to build that next generation of leaders in Marshalltown, and kind of that growth and development for all of our people at the YMCA,” McCormick said. “I’m really excited about what Kim brings in helping our whole organization really develop the people and the future leaders of our community. I think that’s a great opportunity, and something I’m really excited to see Kim drive forward.”

With big plans in mind for the future, Jass-Ramirez, McCormick and the rest of the board will be leaning heavily into data collection and community engagement in the next couple months to ensure that they are moving in the right direction when they eventually get together to put a solid strategic plan into play in April.

Jass-Ramirez is looking forward to working with the board to look at long-term goals for the Y, and most of all, she’s happy to have the opportunity to serve the Marshalltown community through her work at the Y.

“It’s just really good timing. I really enjoy being a part of that long range planning,” Jass-Ramirez said. “I just feel like it’s a blessing to be a part of this community and apart of this organization, and the Y is just some place where people from all backgrounds come together and so, I just have to pinch myself you know, that this is my career and that I get to be the leader of this organization.”


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