Jim Ernst, the longtime president/CEO of Four Oaks, is making plans to retire in the next two years, and the Four Oaks board of directors has named Anne Gruenewald to succeed him.
Ernst has been with Four Oaks for 35 years, while Gruenewald, the agency’s chief strategy officer, has worked for the agency for 31 years. Previously, Gruenewald had been chief operating officer for nearly 20 years at Four Oaks and Ernst’s second-in-command.
Four Oaks, a non-profit organization doing work in child welfare, juvenile justice and behavioral health, was founded in 1973. In 1979, Ernst was named executive director of the agency’s residential treatment program called Boys Acres. The agency changed its name to Four Oaks five years later, and today, it serves more than 14,000 people in offices in 13 Iowa cities.
In a statement, Lydia Brown, the chairwoman of the Four Oaks board, said the board has taken 18 months to come up with a plan to replace Ernst.
“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,” Brown said.
Ernst will announce his exact retirement date later this year.