May is Mental Health Month! All kids deserve kind, safe, welcoming places to grow.

Meet Washburn Center’s new CEO, Tom Steinmetz

Tom Steinmetz became Washburn Center’s new CEO on March 1, 2017.

You’ve worked at Washburn Center for 21 years and have a proven commitment to our mission. What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by the courage, resilience and transformation I see in the children and parents who come here, as well as the dedication and expertise of our staff and the compassion of our donors.

Life can be rough some times. We can’t always prevent that, but we can help kids and parents when they are going through a tough time. Therapy works. If you commit to it and practice, it can be really healing and transformative. But it takes a lot of courage for families to walk through our front door and say you need help. And it takes a lot of courage to talk about painful, emotional experiences.

As a parent of three children, I can relate to the parents who walk through our doors. They want the best for their children. Every parent wants to see their child be happy and healthy. Seeing how Washburn Center changes their life keeps me inspired.

You started here as an intern. Did you always know you wanted to lead Washburn Center?

No!  When I started here, I wanted to do therapeutic groups with elementary age children who had experienced trauma. I wanted to be a therapist and everyone I talked to said Washburn Center was the best placed to get trained in children’s mental health.

The first turning point for me was in 1998 when I worked with Dr. Anne Gearity to rebuild the therapeutic and program model in our Day Treatment program. In that process, I started to get interested in understanding how to pull together all of the other pieces it takes to provide services – great people, space, funding and training.  After doing that for a few years, I moved into the Program Director role in 2001 where I started co-supervising all of our programs along with our Clinical Director.  It was that experience, along with participating in our strategic planning process, that initially got me interested in thinking about a broader leadership role.

What key lessons have you took away from serving as Washburn Center’s COO, and how will you apply that in your new role as CEO?

Staying true to your mission is first and foremost.  I continually ask, “What is our fundamental purpose?  Is what we’re doing today advancing the mission and consistent with it?”  Washburn Center  has stayed committed to our mission as a children’s mental health service provide through ups and downs, good times and bad.  Keeping that integrity, focus and clarity was tough in the short term at times, but it has been enormously beneficial in the long run. As CEO, I’ll uphold our core mission while growing and expanding how we realize it.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Mission focused, growth oriented, curious and inclusive.

What do you think are Washburn Center’s key strengths that will help the agency continue to move forward?

Our people and their commitment to supporting children’s emotional health will propel us forward.  Our skilled staff, amazing interns and generous donors and volunteers – their dedication and the relationships they create are the strength behind Washburn Center.

The work we do is all relationship based. Therapy, healing and transformation happens through relationship and that takes two people, or 10 or 200 – all working together with a common purpose.

Tell us one thing we probably don’t know about you.

I’m an avid, year-round bicyclist.  I compete in several races all year round with my son, who leaves me in the dust every time.