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In The Last Word, we sit down with an industry expert to share their wealth of knowledge with you. This issue, the conversation features Angie Lassley, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Salina Kansas.

1. How did you get started in the community recreation industry? 

AL: My mother was a director at our local YMCA, so I grew up as a Y kid. I played sports, went to camp and learned to swim at this Y. When I was old enough to work, I started as a sports official. Over the course of 30 years, as we moved for my husband’s job, I was able to stay within the Y movement and worked for some amazing YMCA associations in Wichita, Kansas; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Lexington, Kentucky. In each Y, I was able to grow, help open new YMCA facilities, work with membership development and make amazing friends — I am very thankful for the YMCA network. Now, I’ve returned to my hometown Y and am blessed to be able to work with an amazing group of staff and volunteers.

2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success? What are you most proud of? 

AL: Within the past six years, we raised over $4.5 million for a much-needed facility renovation that took 18 months to complete. A very dedicated group of volunteers and an amazing campaign consultant helped us raise the most money this Y has ever raised. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun when it was all over, and now we’re talking about the next one.

3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career? 

AL: Last year, I was asked to serve on the North American YMCA Development Organization (NAYDO) Council, providing guidance and support in philanthropy to YMCAs across North America. I had an opportunity to meet and work with individuals who are focused on sustainability to continue our mission through philanthropy. It has been an awesome experience. I am honored to be the liaison for our small and mid-size Ys (under $4 million) to help promote this work in Ys that typically are working with very small staff and budgets, but have the same — or greater — needs.

4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? 

AL: The first six months of being an interim CEO during the national search and then being selected for this role were scary. Having worked in large associations, coming to an independent Y with a small budget and significant financial concerns was a challenge. In my first year as CEO, we completely reorganized the staff structure, re-designed our financial accounts and structure, rewrote the new employee handbook, began raising money toward our goal of $3.7 million, and had a significant lawsuit that prompted a new risk management committee and focus. I am so thankful for everyone who helped us get back on track and provided us with their support.

5. What is one lesson you have learned that other community recreation professionals can learn from? 

AL: Regardless of what our titles are or what our budget responsibility is, we all have similar issues, problems and wins. Whether it’s a YMCA, JCC or other organization, we all want to make a difference, and we cannot do it alone. Creating a network of peers is critical for our professional, mental and emotional health.

6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know. 

AL: I love to travel, and through Girl Scouts in high school, I was able to visit five countries and 26 states. Since then, I continue to find the beach is my happy place.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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