By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — His enthusiasm and his level of research into the job at the local and national levels were key to the hiring of Robert Hannon, sports director at WYTV, as the new president and chief professional officer of the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley United Way.
William Bresnahan, chairman of the United Way Board of Directors, said Hannon was chosen from among some two dozen applicants and five semifinalists.
Hannon, who will take over Sept. 1 for Donald Cagigas, will be paid $75,000 a year. Cagigas announced his retirement earlier in the year.
Hannon has been sports director at WYTV since 1988 and the play-by-play voice of Youngstown State University football since 1989. He previously worked in radio in New Castle, Pa., and Atlantic City, N.J. He is a graduate of New Castle, Pa., High School and Slippery Rock University. He and his wife, Beth, and three children, Craig, Noelle, and Melinda, live in New Castle, but plan to move to Mahoning County.
While he has not served on the United Way board of directors or staff, he has hosted several Rally for the Valley events, a United Way fundraiser; and he learned Cagigas was leaving and became interested in the job at last January’s rally.
Hannon said he researched the job intensely for six months, talking to United Way leaders across the country and meeting with local community leaders to find out what they like and don’t like about United Way, before pitching his ideas to the United Way search committee.
He said he plans to use his connections in sports, particularly in the National Football League, for which the United Way is the preferred charity, to bring in sports celebrities for fund-raising activities.
“I want to tap into the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns connections, and perhaps set up a free football camp for community kids using NFL connections from the community,” he said.
“I’m going to shoot for a Brady Quinn or a Ben Roethlisberger for our Champions Among Us dinner. I think we can do it,” he said.
Hannon said he is coming in with a different background and plans to be more public and visible than past United Way heads.
He acknowledged that he doesn’t have previous experience for this type of job. But he said, “It’s more than going out and getting donors. It’s about building relationships. I think a lot of it is common sense and building relationships and trust.”
He said fundraising, marketing and strategic planning are the three areas he intends to focus on to begin with.