Young Alumni: Trey Oakley ’09
Trey Oakley is the CEO of Williams YMCA of Avery County, North Carolina. In recent years the Williams YMCA of Avery County has been voted Fitness Center of the Year twice and Business of the Year once in Avery County. Trey currently serves on the Board of Directors for the N.C. State Alliance of YMCAs, the Avery County Chamber, the Mitchell County Chamber and is on the Advisory Board for the Lees McRae College School of Nursing.
He and his wife, Hillary met at CSU. She was an Athletic Trainer, and Trey was a physical education major. They have been married since 2012 and have two children, daughter Parker, 6, and son Paxton, 4.
Why the YMCA?
I’m a Y kid. I started playing tee ball at the Clinton, South Carolina, YMCA at age 4. I made friends on that tee ball team that I remain friends with today. Athletics of course were my favorite, but also hanging out with friends afterschool as I got older. My involvement at the Y as a kid led to one of my first jobs as a lifeguard for the Y when I was 15. My friends and I always said that we were going to “run our Y” one day when we grew up because it seemed like all of the adults just played all day (we were wrong). Little did I know it at the time, but the Y also was my outlet from the day-to-day. My parents divorced when my sister and I were very young. The one place I could always find peace was on the baseball field or at a camp. Without the Y and the opportunities that were given to me as a kid, there is no telling how life may have been different. I will always remember Ms. Beaufort (front desk attendant) letting me sneak in when finances were a little tight at home. That means a lot more to me now than it did then.
My passion since I was a kid has always been for the Y. My goal now as CEO is that every child that walks in our doors is given the same experience I received or better. Who knows, my replacement could be in our afterschool program right now!
Motivating My Team
I certainly have no magic wand! When I started my role as CEO in 2013, our staff needed a kick-start. The first thing I did was ask questions, listen, and act on the information I was given. Providing professional development opportunities, developing tracks for advancement, NOT MICROMANAGING, and allowing them to make mistakes and grow, and just let them see that I will fight for them and always have their backs. I’d also say, always follow through on your word. Respect is earned.
Best Leadership Advice
Surround yourself with good people and get out of their way! Early on in my career I had to have my hand in everything, and man was that exhausting.
Handling the Unexpected in a Pandemic
A lot of prayer, a lot of time in thought, calm, and calculated decisions. In North Carolina, all gyms (the Y is more than a gym!) were closed on March 16 and just reopened at 30% capacity on Labor Day. Since then, my Y has lost over $480,000 in membership, programming, and events revenue. have had to make tough decisions for the longevity of our organization during this time, but what makes the Y special is our ability to adapt to community needs. We could not control the fact that a pandemic had a stronghold on our country, but we can control our attitudes and how we attack issues. Our Y adapted. We provided no-cost emergency childcare, packed thousands of pounds of food for drive thru pickups; we delivered hundreds of meals and medication to shut in seniors, and we made wellness calls to all of our older adults on our membership roster to ensure that they were well. Although we were hemorrhaging cash from our operating account, we did all of this at no cost and were able to raise every penny necessary to provide the services. Our community, our members, our staff and our donor base have been and continue to be amazing.
So I would say you assess the issue, assess the health of your organization, develop a plan, rally the troops, and work the plan. We have been incredibly blessed and hope to pass on the good fortune to those around us.
Passing on Values
Now more than ever, just love your neighbor. Love each other. Smile more, help a stranger. Leave your community better than you found it.