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New CEO settles in at YMCA

AT THE YMCA:Tristen Comegys has completed her second full week as the new CEO for the Clinton County Family YMCA. Staff members posing for a photo Wednesday evening at the YMCA are, from left,Denise Bushman, child care director;Amy Sheet, membership/program coordinator; Alisha Wylie, lead teacher; Cindy Beebe, operations director; Comegys; Lacey Eberle, lead teacher; Amanda Kesler, assistant teacher; and Katie Chambers, lead teacher.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Tristen Comegys began work as the new chief executive officer of the Clinton County Family YMCA on Nov. 19 and has been busy settling into the job ever since.

A 2014 graduate of Purdue University Northwest who got her degree in communications with a focus in advertising, Comegys has worked in what she calls an “entrepreneurial-style setting” over the last five years.

“I was partners with dad and his marketing company. I was also a promotional marketing strategist with another marketing company. I got to work with a lot of large corporations and businesses to help them reach their goals,” Comegys said. “After graduating, I worked with a couple of nonprofits and decided to take the plunge, like a lot of millennials did. I tried working for myself, and it was really successful.”

Comegys says that, when she learned of the opportunity at the YMCA in Frankfort, she was reminded of how she got her career started years before.

“When I was attending college, I was the marketing coordinator for the YMCA where I am from in Chesterton,” she said. “I was 19 years old. They took a chance on me, and I got on-the-job experience for two-and-a-half years.

“Because of how much I grew in that two-and-a-half years, I was presented with other opportunities. Following that, I was the membership director of a large regional chamber of commerce. I really built connections there, and that is where future opportunities lied for me.”

But, Comegys underestimated how much she was beginning to miss working in a team environment.

“Working for yourself, even though we had a large clientele, you miss that team atmosphere where you are working toward a larger mission,” she said. “I was helping other organizations striving to meet their goals, but I didn’t get to be a part of it. So, it made me start missing that.

“When this opportunity presented itself to me, it made me think and revisit a dream I had when I was younger,” she added. “I used to look up to our CEO a lot at the Duneland Y. I always thought I wanted to do that one day, and I didn’t know that one day was here.”

So, Comegys submitted her resume and was called-in for an interview in mid-October.

“I am pretty faith-based,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well, God is opening up a door for you to explore this.

“I have fallen in love with Frankfort in the very short time that I have been here,” she added. “Once I knew I was getting interviewed for the position, I drove down here and took a look at the area so I knew what the market was and what the Y could potentially do in this community. When I came down for the interview, I got to meet some of the people that live in this community, and I got to tour the Y and meet the staff. That day, I had so much fun. I left the interview thinking that I had a blast and that I wanted to pursue another Y if I didn’t get offered this position.”

Clinton County Family YMCA President Shan Sheridan helped conduct the interview and was impressed with Comegys unique combination of background and skills.

“We like her energy,” Sheridan said. “She brings a lot of passion. She has a great Y story (Comegys went to day care at her hometown Y and later worked as a morning front desk clerk). She has a great background and a desire for the Y and seeing it succeed.

“We also were in a very strong need from an organizational standpoint for a good marketing mind,” he added. “We need to strengthen the marketing side of the YMCA here in Clinton County. We thought that made her a great fit for us. She was very strong in her interview, well-spoken and able to communicate with both staff and our members and our community. I thought Tristen was a very strong candidate based on all of those qualities.”

Frankfort became the right fit for Comegys due in part to the development she learned about over recent years.

“Shan shared a vision of this city, and I knew that it was going somewhere,” she said. “That there were investors and community partners who are invested in the health and the growth of the community. I also noticed that we have a lot of industry here. So, as a nonprofit leader, you have to make sure that you have potential partners to help reach your goals and to service as well. When I saw that, I thought this is a good fit for me because we had just undergone a lot of economic development in our region. When I saw that Frankfort was beginning that process, I wanted to be a part of that. So, now I potentially get to be a part of that. I think that when people in the community come together, that is when you build a strong community.”

Comegys says she wants to learn how the YMCA can “truly be a community partner” and she hopes to create programs that make Frankfort a better place to live and work. In the immediate future, she says there will be a focus on membership, youth sports and enrolling some more children into the Learning Ladder program.

“We are going to focus on increasing our numbers in child care,” she said. “We do have some availability in two of our classrooms for our 4s and 5s, and also our 3-year-olds. We are hoping that at the start of the new year, we are going to have an infant and toddler room. By supporting the YMCA and bringing your children here, it helps us grow even more.

“The new year is a great time to reconsider health and wellness, and the Y is a great place to do that,” Comegys added. “We will be launching some sort of New Year promotion, and we have sign-ups for youth basketball and cheerleading going on right now. We are asking the community to come support us through our programs, and you are going to start seeing this Y flourish.”