In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge. In the 2023 March/April issue, the conversation features Anthony Walters, the president and CEO of the YMCA of South Hampton Roads.
1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry?
I started as a YMCA camp counselor in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as an undergraduate student. I began my professional career in education and then returned to the Y in a leadership role in Charlotte, North Carolina. From my very first role in the Y to today, I have dedicated my YMCA service to elevating efforts on belonging.
2. What’s been a key to your team’s success? What are you most proud of?
I believe in bringing people together not merely as a tagline, but I genuinely enjoy leveraging the collective strengths of a group to achieve team and organizational success. I know that no one person accomplishes anything alone or sees great results without truly bringing everyone’s talents into the equation. As someone that has been on a number of teams, and now leading a large organization with unique and talented leaders, I am most proud that I make leadership a conversation.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
Receiving a call from the McKenzie Scott team that we were the recipients of a grant from her foundation was among the highest honors in my Y career. This financial recognition came at a time when we needed it most, but it was not a time when we expected it nor made any request. My pride comes from the fact that we were selected by simply doing the things we had committed to do for our community, for our membership base and for our team members.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?
The navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic was without question the biggest challenge in my career. I began my assignment as president and CEO in December of 2019, and the pandemic began in March of 2020. Needless to say, the amazing work by volunteers and staff provided great counsel to me in my leadership to help “steer the wheel” for a crisis no one had a roadmap or blueprint for how to manage through. I believe I’m stronger, wiser, more experienced — and balder — for having gone through that experience.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from?
Leaders are defined by how well they empower the leadership of others.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
I love to roller skate — even though I don’t do it well.