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Contributed photo / Baron Herdelin-Doherty

The new president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga has spent 37 years with the nonprofit organization, beginning with a job teaching fitness classes and managing a wellness center in Mobile, Alabama.

"I've done almost everything you can do at a Y," says Baron Herdelin-Doherty. "It was something I loved, and even on the hardest days, I've never felt like I wanted to quit."

A native of Mobile, Alabama, who earned a degree in communications and public relations from Auburn University, Herdelin-Doherty was previously president and CEO of the YMCA of San Diego County since 2010.

He also served as president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater San Antonio for seven years; was chief operating officer/senior vice president of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak region for three years; group vice president of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee for six years; and executive director at the YMCA of Greater Rochester for four years.

"I've lived in eight places working for the YMCA," Herdelin-Doherty says. "I call it apprenticeship. You start off and learn and grow, you can move and change, and I've kind of followed that path throughout my career."

The pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for YMCAs across the country, but Janet Dunn, who led the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga until her retirement earlier this year, has put the organization in a strong position to serve the community through the crisis, Herdelin-Doherty says.

Getting personal

Herdelin-Doherty and his wife, Lisa, met at the YMCA in Nashville 26 years ago. They have a grown son, Ethan, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, and a 7-year-old daughter, Lilly. Their children are “Y kids” who have grown up attending YMCA camps and classes throughout his career, Herdelin-Doherty says.

 

"Janet Dunn did a great job of setting the table for this [transition]," he says. "It's unfortunate that she and the staff had to deal with this, but thanks to her leadership, the Y is strong and the volunteers are strong."

As he gets to know the landscape of Chattanooga, Herdelin-Doherty says it's clear to him that collaboration across community organizations is crucial to emerging from the pandemic and serving the new needs that emerge from it.

"I know we have to lean on our other nonprofits, to work together," he says. "Partnership is going to be the only way out of this thing."

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