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New Modesto YMCA head from Maryland

An experienced, innovative YMCA leader with sound finances at his Chesapeake Bay camp will try to rescue the YMCA of Stanislaus County, he confirmed Wednesday.

Phil McGovern, executive director of the YMCA Tockwogh Camp and Conference Center in Maryland, said he will become chief executive officer of the financially strapped Young Men’s Christian Association of Stanislaus County by Dec. 15.

He envisions expanding the YMCA’s services beyond its Modesto building and High Sierra camp.

“I’m certainly not coming to oversee the closing of anything,” McGovern said, referring to board members’ comments that they have considered selling their 43-year-old building on McHenry Avenue to escape nearly $2 million in debt. The beloved institution “can be righted,” McGovern said.

McGovern, 48, accepted the offer during a Halloween visit to Modesto, he said.

Four days later, The Bee reported on the YMCA’s crisis, including declining membership, lack of audits for two years and difficulties with vendors. Paying bills with endowment capital meant for other purposes caught the attention of state prosecutors, and a charity previously served by the endowments sought legal advice, The Bee reported since.

“I’m looking for positive things to happen,” McGovern said. “I wouldn’t head into a situation where I didn’t feel I could succeed.”

Board members in Modesto two weeks ago acknowledged that the crisis might have scared away other candidates for the top job.

One, reached this week, said he felt great sympathy for members, staff and board leaders in Modesto but quickly left town once he studied their financial records.

“It didn’t take long because I’m trained to read those documents,” he said, asking not to be named for fear of retaliation.

McGovern said he is familiar with nonprofit struggles and was not put off by Modesto’s situation. He declined to reveal his salary in Modesto. The previous CEO, Steve Smith, earned $93,356 in salary and benefits in the year preceding April 2005, the last for which figures are publicly available.

Born and raised in Delaware, McGovern first encountered the YMCA as a volunteer soccer coach in high school and soon was hired as soccer coordinator. He coached high school and college teams and owned soccer camps in Delaware.

McGovern eventually worked up to associate director at YMCAs in Reno and Sparks, Nev., and spent 18 months as chief executive officer of the Corcoran Family YMCA south of Fresno.

McGovern returned to the East Coast when his brother fell ill and took the job at Tockwogh Camp, a 97-year-old watersports program owned by the YMCA of Maryland, which runs nine branches in various cities.

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