Mike Thirtle, chief executive officer of Watertown-based Bethesda, will leave the organization next month to lead actor Gary Sinise’s foundation in California.
Thirtle has been at the helm of Bethesda, a Lutheran nonprofit that provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, for the past seven years. He will leave the organization July 9, and chief operating officer Dave Sneddon will serve as interim CEO, Bethesda’s board announced Monday.
The organization, which operates in 13 states, was founded and remains based in Watertown and has a corporate office in Brookfield.
“I know that leaving was a very difficult decision for Mike given his commitment to Bethesda, the people we support and the disability community,” said Cesar Villalpando, chairperson of Bethesda’s board. “We will be forever grateful for Mike’s hard work that helped transform the organization. That said, we are now in a position to grow many of our existing services exponentially, with several new and exciting programs under development.”
Thirtle has been named CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation, a Woodland Hills, California-based organization founded by Emmy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Gary Sinise with a focus on honoring the nation’s “defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need,” according to the organization.
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Thirtle worked for the RAND Corp. in various roles and was director of consulting for the National Data Corp. and a senior consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to joining Bethesda.
With Thirtle's departure, the board is initiating a national search for his replacement.
“The board has full confidence in Dave Sneddon’s ability to successfully step into the interim CEO position and lead the organization through this transition,” Villalpando said.
Bethesda is currently executing on a new housing strategy, called Cornerstone Village, which integrates residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities with neurotypical residents. Its first development using that model recently opened in suburban Minneapolis, and the organization has plans to open a similar development at 3200 W. Highland Blvd. in Milwaukee and another at an undisclosed Milwaukee-area site.