PITTSFIELD -- This month, the Boys & Girls Club in Pittsfield will have its first new executive director in nearly 15 years.

The organization's board of directors has named Ridgefield, Conn., native Terry Hughes as the club's new leader, effective April 28.

Hughes has since 2010 served as the executive director of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, N.Y., and has previously held the same position for the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club.

"Terry is a fresh perspective," said Marilyn Sperling, president and CEO of Greylock Federal Credit Union. As a member of the club's board of directors, she also led the search committee to find a new executive director.

Previous executive director, Peter E. Bell, left the post on a paid leave of absence on Oct. 23, and the board officially announced Bell's resignation in early December. Bell had been directing the club since 1999, but had been working with the organization for more than 30 years. The board has declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Bell's departure, but board President John C. Donna described it as an "amicable" decision.

David J. Harte Jr., the organization's director of operations, has since been serving as interim director.

Sperling, Donna and Hughes all met with The Eagle on Thursday afternoon to discuss the search process, leadership transition and plans to evaluate the club's programs and organizational structure.

In moving forward, Sperling said, it's important for the community to be involved in future developments, starting with the selection committee.

In addition to Sperling, the seven-member group included Rick Backer, a special education teacher for Williamstown schools, who also runs a recreational therapy camp at the club's Camp Russell; board member Ron DeAngelis, operations manager for The Carver Cos. in Altamont, N.Y.; Pittsfield resident Shirley Edgerton, program director for the state Department of Developmental Services; board member George L. Haddad of Haddad Motor Group; Kristine Hazzard, president of Berkshire United Way; and Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield corporator Gerry Murray, vice president of human resources at Greylock Federal Credit Union.

Sperling said the group narrowed the list of 87 initial applicants, "most from outside the area," to 15 candidates. A Maine-based consulting firm, Smith & Wilkinson Executive Search Solutions, then conducted interviews and produced a short list of eight semifinalists to be interviewed by the selection committee. The group brought two finalists back for a second round of interviews in March.

"The selection committee made a recommendation for Terry and the board endorsed it," Donna said.

Hughes holds a bachelor's degree in education from Southern Connecticut State University. He's been a member of the Boys & Girls Club Professionals Academy since 2001. He's also a graduate of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's Advanced Leadership Program developed and run with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

One of nine children, Hughes said he "grew up with the club." He also has two college-age children and a teenager, and said he understands how important it is for the club to reach out to students and their families.

"I think there's so much opportunity," he said, emphasizing the need to develop programs that help youths achieve academic success, develop a sense of good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.

Under his leadership at the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, which served youths in Astoria and Long Island City, he oversaw renovations to the club's aquatics center and gymnasium. That club also recently received a $75,000 grant to build a "Teaching Kitchen" there, according to an article published in February by the Western Queens Gazette.

While at the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield, he worked with a team that secured more than $10 million to build a new facility, according to a 2012 interview with Hughes published in the Queens Ledger.

"His forte is that he can spot areas for growth," Donna said of Hughes.

Donna said that the 114-year-old Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield has an average annual enrollment of 5,000 members but serves a core of between 1,600 and 1,800 members year-round. He said there are about 18 full-time and 90 part-time staff employed during the year.

According to federal tax documents, the club reported a total revenue of $2,395,401 in fiscal 2011, the most recent public report on file, with expenses totaling $2,761,150. Total assets were valued at $21,862,515.

Sperling said part of Hughes' role will be to help raise revenues and build membership. But she said the board also hopes that he will be able to build strong connections with the people of Pittsfield.

"We wanted a director that could engage the community and be out there meeting and greeting and shaking hands with people," she said.

Hughes said he made several visits and walked around the club and Camp Russell prior to accepting his new role. He said he's also planning a move to the Berkshires.

As a board, Sperling and Donna said there are some new vacancies that will be coming up due to retirements and some younger members leaving to focus their time and energy on building their careers. Filling those vacancies will be a part of the board's annual meeting in June.

"We need more diversity on the board," said Sperling. "We need leaders that will represent those families that we serve."

Another task of the board will be to determine the level of affiliation and responsibilities the organization's alumni board will have. Donna said the alumni board is "still very much alive."

He said another priority of the board and its legal team will be upgrading the organization's bylaws, which, he said, have been effective, "but are getting old."