WILKES-BARRE — Mike Zimmerman is leaving his position as chief executive officer at Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Gertrude C. McGowan, Esq., has been named to the position effective July 1.
Zimmerman will stay on for three months to assist in McGowan’s transition into the CEO position.
“I’m proud to have worked for so long at an organization that exemplifies professionalism and commitment to the community,” Zimmerman said. “While I look forward to retirement, I leave with a lot of fond memories of services throughout the years and accomplishments I am proud to be part of, such as the CAC development, implementing and expanding Family Finding/Family group programs, and of course, the long term Disaster Recovery Coalition.”
McGowan said it’s too soon to discuss what her priorities will be as she assumes her new job at FSA, which was established in 1895.
”I plan on using the three-month overlap with Mike to learn the culture and history of FSA,” McGowan said. “I do believe that my over 20 years of experience in the local nonprofit community not only demonstrates my dedication to improving the lives of our residents, but also provides me with a strong background to advance the compelling mission of FSA. I am both humbled and energized by this tremendous opportunity and challenge to lead FSA.”
At Highmark from 2015 to 2019, McGowan served as vice president and deputy general counsel. She provided strategic and technical leadership, as well as daily oversight of all aspects of integrating the former Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania operations into Highmark post-merger and managing the legal department for Highmark’s Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania operations.
At Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, McGowan was senior vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary from 2009 to 2015. She provided strategic leadership and oversight to the legal and government affairs divisions.
McGowan also served as general legal counsel at Wyoming Valley Health Care System from 1997 to 2001, representing the region’s largest integrated delivery system.
John Thalenfeld, President/CEO at Trion Industries in Wilkes-Barre, currently serves as the chairman of the FSA board of directors. He said he is confident McGowan was the right choice to replace Zimmerman, but he admitted he is sad to see his friend depart.
“It is sad to see the change,” Thalenfeld said. “Mike has compiled a long list of accomplishments at FSA. When he returned to FSA, he said it was like coming home again.”
Thalenfeld said he has known McGowan for a long time as well. He said the FSA board went through an extensive search for a new CEO, receiving hundreds of applicants from across the country.
“I’ve known Gert for a while and she is very well qualified and she will bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the agency,” Thalenfeld said.
Zimmerman said he has mixed feelings about leaving FSA.
“It has been a wonderful and rewarding career helping others,” he said. “I remember receiving a call while at Malabar some 45 years ago to assist a woman who was pregnant and using heroin. After arranging medical detox at a facility in Stroudsburg, we transported her early the next morning. As she entered the facility, she gave me a bracelet she was wearing, and I declined. She insisted. I still have it, and I look at it every once in a while to remind me why I chose this career.”
Zimmerman said throughout his career, there have been many accomplishments that were the result of the hard-working people, “who receive little pay and do the day-to-day direct service” for those in the community.
“Without them, my career would have been short lived,” Zimmerman said. “I am looking forward to not having to worry about program funding and getting back to my recreational loves of fishing, hunting, hiking, and spending more time with my family and of course our wonderful dog, Jeter.”
Zimmerman began his career at FSA on Nov. 16, 1981, as a help line caseworker. On Nov. 22, 1999, he left to assume duties as the executive director of the American Red Cross, Wyoming Valley Chapter.
On Nov. 30, 2009, he left the American Red Cross as a regional director, covering eight counties, and on Dec. 1, 2009, he returned to FSA as the chief executive officer.
Zimmerman is a lifelong resident of Wyoming Valley, where his family has resided for nine generations, dating to 1768. He is married to Laura Faith Wereschagin, Out-Patient Therapist at Northeast Counseling, and they enjoy a daughter, Barrett Elizabeth Zimmerman.
Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania has its offices on West Market Street, Wilkes-Barre, as seen here.