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Joliet YMCA names Watts as its new president, CEO

 James Watts was hired as the Greater Joliet Area YMCA's new president and chief executive officer.
James Watts was hired as the Greater Joliet Area YMCA's new president and chief executive officer.

JOLIET, Ill. — The board of directors of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA has hired James Watts as the organization’s new president and chief executive officer.

Watts assumed his duties at the Greater Joliet Area YMCA on Monday, April 9.

During his 30 years working for the "Y," Watts has embraced the organization’s mission and worked tirelessly to further its cause in a number of communities throughout the Midwest. Prior to joining the Greater Joliet Area YMCA, Watts served as vice president of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis. In that role, he provided leadership to four branches and oversaw a budget of $6 million.

While in Indianapolis, he was instrumental in the association’s fundraising initiatives, helping to secure $560,000 in capital gifts to fund an outdoor pool, as well as a $1 million donation from the United Way. Under his leadership, the Greater Indianapolis Y’s membership, program enrollment and retention all reached all-time highs.

Watts also managed the redesign and renovation of two wellness centers, and the development of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA, the first facility of its kind in YMCA history.

Prior to joining the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, Watts spent more than two decades working for the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. During his 21 years in Milwaukee, he worked as an operations director, membership director, branch executive and group vice president. During his eight-year tenure as group vice president, Watts oversaw a budget of $9 million and a staff of 400.

While working in Milwaukee, he developed the West Suburban YMCA’s Board of Managers, which was recognized for its excellence in capital development. Additionally, he secured multiple endowment gifts, helped to raise nearly $1 million to fund a renovation of the West Suburban YMCA’s Lifestyle Center, and secured $1 million in grant funding over seven years to fund the Hart Park Senior Center for the City of Wauwatosa.

“We are very excited to welcome Jim to the Greater Joliet Area YMCA family,” said Gregory
Peyla, chairman of the executive board of directors of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA. “We
have been very impressed with Jim’s vast knowledge of the Y and his high level of

"After having conducted an extensive national search, we are confident that Jim’s innovative thinking and passion for our organization make him the ideal leader as we continue to advance the mission of the Y throughout Will and Grundy counties."

A native of Melrose Park, Ill., Watts began his career with the YMCA in 1981 at the Elmhurst YMCA, where he worked for six years. Originally drawn to the Y because of its mission, he found that it was the perfect job to combine a faith-based focus with his love for health and fitness.

A true believer in the spirit of volunteerism, Watts has been active with local chapters of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and volunteered for seven Hurricane Katrina relief trips with local churches and Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization.

An avid runner and fitness enthusiast, Watts earned a bachelor’s degree in community health education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He and his wife, Marge, have been married 27 years and have four children — Megan, Joshua, Jacob and Marissa.


The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits, strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Greater Joliet Area YMCA has been serving families —  regardless of age, income or background — from throughout Will County and its surrounding areas for more than 80 years.

Across the U.S., 2,687 YMCAs engage 21 million men, women and children to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors.

Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the longstanding relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. To learn more, visit

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