CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The Four Oaks board of directors recently announced that its succession task force has completed its work and recommended that Anne Gruenewald succeed Jim Ernst, president and CEO of Four Oaks. The Four Oaks board of directors approved the recommendation at the January board meeting. The transition will take place throughout the next two years. Ernst plans to make a more formal announcement concerning his retirement date at the end of this year.
"Today culminates more than one-and-a-half years of succession planning," said Lydia Brown, Four Oaks board chair. 'When you have a CEO who has grown an organization from helping a few troubled children per year to more than 14,000 people annually, you need to carefully and thoughtfully make the transition. This is truly a planned succession."
Gruenewald, who has been with Four Oaks for 31 years, presently serves as Four Oaks' chief strategy officer. Gruenewald is currently leading the TotalChild pilot project, directing the $5 million Partners United for Supportive Housing Cedar Rapids (PUSH-CR) federal grant and overseeing Iowa KidsNet. Prior to being promoted to chief strategy officer, Gruenewald was chief operating officer for nearly 20 years and served as Ernst's second-in-command.
"It is rare to have two highly qualified leaders working side by side, who can lead an organization of this size and scope," said Brown. "The handing of the baton from Jim to Anne will be seamless and ensures that the focus stays on the children and families and not on the inner workings of the organization."
In 1979, Ernst was named the executive director of Boys Acres, a residential treatment program. In 1984, the agency changed its name to Four Oaks. Under Jim's leadership the organization has grown to one of the largest service organizations for children and families in the state. Affiliates of Four Oaks include the Affordable Housing Network, Iowa KidsNet and Jane Boyd.
Most recently, Ernst pioneered the TotalChild concept for Four Oaks. This ground breaking approach helps children hurdle all obstacles to success so that the children, their families, neighborhoods and their city are stronger. By following a child to age 18 and providing "booster shots" along the way, Four Oaks will help ensure all children who come under Four Oaks' care will have the best chance to become successful adults.
According to Brown, the Four Oaks board of directors is announcing the succession plan now in response to questions asked during a TotalChild fundraising feasibility study.
"People wanted to know that there was a succession plan in place," said Brown. "We want people to know, there is not only a plan, but there is action as well."