AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Valley YMCA’s new CEO is a lifer.

The organization announced Thursday that it had hired Tom Warren, who has worked for the YMCA in Massachusetts and Maine for 33 years.

Warren first started working part time at a YMCA during graduate school.

“I never at that time thought it would become a career, but it grows on you,” he said.

Warren had sold fitness gear while studying business at the University of Maine, but he realized he preferred creating programs for people instead of just selling them equipment.

Warren grew up in Massachusetts but has several connections to Maine. In addition to going to school in Orono, he worked at the YMCA in Bangor, where his two daughters now live, and he and his wife have a camp in Sangerville.

Since 2007, Warren has served as a senior executive of multiple locations in the Old Colony YMCA, an association with several branches in southeastern Massachusetts.

He’ll start at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in mid-January. The organization has been led by interim CEO Bob Oickle since Mark Yerrick departed for a job in New Hampshire in the fall.

Harry Lanphear, a YMCA board member who served on the search committee, said Warren has exceptional leadership skills.

“We hope that Tom will use his YMCA experience to broaden what the Y is able to provide for the communities and really make us the place to go if you’re looking for healthy lifestyle activities,” Lanphear said.

Board Chairwoman Kat Beaudoin said they were impressed by Warren’s stewardship of the YMCA in Brockton, Mass., when it was struggling financially. The Kennebec Valley YMCA is in a strong financial position, Beaudoin said, but it has an ambitious 2014 fundraising goal for its Strong Kids Campaign, which provides scholarships for kids and families who can’t afford the full cost of membership.

Beaudoin said the association’s other goals include growing the membership, introducing new programs to attract members and raising awareness of the YMCA’s charitable mission to make its wellness and education programs accessible to everyone.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645[email protected]Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan