Leadership and Board of Directors

Passionate people are the core foundation of Third Way Center

MD, Founder

Dr. Hildegard Messenbaugh’s life is one of extraordinary achievement. A Holocaust survivor of concentration camps, Messenbaugh was driven by her desire to achieve personal justice for the trauma she and her family endured during World War II. Her own life experience uniquely shaped the direction of her professional career – ultimately changing the lives of thousands for decades to come.

After surviving the Second World war, Hildegard moved from Austria to the United States and received her medical degree at the University of Rochester (New York) and completed her residency in adolescent psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. In the late 1960s, she joined a group of community volunteers to assist in the establishment of an after care program for youth who were being released from institutions. Without community resources and support, they had few options, and were faced with homelessness or incarceration.

Prior to joining Third Way Center as full-time medical director, Hildegard served as the Medical Director at Mt. Airy and Lutheran West Pines Psychiatric Centers, and developed a thriving private practice in Denver.  She has held positions with the Colorado Advisory Council on Mental Health and was previously a commissioner on the Governor’s Special Task Force on the welfare of Children. In 2003, Hildegard received the Exemplary Service Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Colorado Child and Adolescent Mental Health Coalition. She was recognized on National Public Radio as a winner of the “E-chievement” award on E-Town Radio and was featured in Colorado View magazine as one of Denver’s most influential women

MEd, Executive Director

Dave Eisner has worked in the field of child welfare his entire adult life, starting his career as a drug and alcohol counselor.  In 1977, he was hired as Third Way Center’s first Masters level therapist and became the Executive Director in 1980.  David earned both his Bachelor’s degree and Master of Education in Rehab Counseling degree at the University of Pittsburgh.

He is a current board member of the Jewish Community Center in Denver, and Board Chair of the Colorado Association of Family & Children’s Agencies.  For years he served as a youth coach in basketball, baseball and softball with all different ages and abilities.

LCSW, Program Director

Renee Johnson, LCSW, CACIII, has been with Third Way Center for almost 30 years. She began her career with Third Way Center as a relief overnight worker, while in school. Upon graduation, she was hired as a primary therapist for the York program. Within two years she was promoted to treatment leader of the new Pontiac program, and then started the Lincoln program in 1991.

She has served many positions at Third Way Center, including Clinical Director and now is the Program Director. She has been instrumental in Third Way Center’s growth and development over the years. She runs our Offense Specific program for Juveniles with sexual acting out behaviors, co-facilitates staff training with the founder and medical director, and supervises a staff of over 80 licensed/and provisionally licensed therapists, special education teachers and mental health workers.

Ph.D., LPC, Clinical Director

Kristi Edmonds has worked at Third Way Center since 1989. She started as an intern and accepted a full time position as a therapist in March 1991. Kristi has brought her talents to multiple facilities within Third Way Center as her career has grown. Most recently she was promoted to Clinical Director in 2014 after serving as the Assistant Clinical Director for thirteen years.

Kristi has a Bachelor’s degree in Development Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. Kristi completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision at Walden University in 2019. Kristi has presented at local and national conferences on counselor burnout and vicarious trauma, staff retention, and counselor wellness.

MBA, Chief Financial Officer

Dave Koehler comes to Third Way Center with over 20 years of experience in Finance and Accounting. David has held several leadership positions including CFO/Controller at Synaptive, a health education company and Director of Finance & Contracts at Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, a health quality improvement organization.

David graduated from Colorado State University and holds a BA in Agriculture Business. He also earned his Master in Finance and Accounting from Regis University. Dave is a highly accomplished and a well-rounded business professional with a solid background in budgeting, forecasting, and accounting processes with past responsibility of managing revenues and expenses in excess of 100 million. He has worked for both public and private companies relating to healthcare, banking, mutual funds, credit cards, mortgages, sports, non profit, and construction.

Vice President

Brendan is a Colorado native and seasoned real estate professional.  In his youth he benefited from the services at Third Way Center’s Lincoln Apartments.  He serves on the board with a personal expertise and passion for the mission. Now he has been a leading top producer for over 18 years with sales consistently ranking in the top 1% of all Keller Williams Teams Internationally. Prior to entering real estate, he served in the United States Army Infantry with multiple tours in Iraq and Kuwait. 

Sales, Marketing, Management

Melanie’s professional background includes sales, marketing, management, new location openings and special events roles in the restaurant industry including Morton’s, The Capital Grille, and for acclaimed chef Troy Guard in Denver.  She has also worked for the Democratic National Convention. Melanie is now a mother of two and has taken a step back from the business world, and spends as much time as possible exploring Colorado with her family and getting involved in her community. 


Gary has served on the Third Way Center Board of Directors since 1999.  He is self-employed as a stock and options trader.  In the 70’s Gary worked as a Counselor at Third Way and brings a unique perspective of the clients we serve to the Board.  Having been a high school math teacher, Gary has served as a volunteer tutor for some of the Third Way clients.

Board Member

Sally comes to Third Way Center with a background in education and psychology and a passion for investing in our future generation.  She owns Christiania Lodge resort in Vail, Colorado and invests a lot of time in supporting the Vail Mountain School through her service.  Her son is a current State Senator and the former Educational Director of the Joan Farley Academy, operated by Third Way Center. She brings expertise in education, policy and community fundraising events.  


Matthew is a graduate of Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California.  He works as a real estate broker and is married with two sons. His family has been long standing supporters of Third Way Center with multiple family members serving on the Board, and his mother was awarded Third Way Center’s service award. 


Patrick is the Executive Vice President for Consumer and Small Business Banking for Community Banks of Colorado. Patrick graduated from Boston University and holds a BAS in Business Administration. With more than 25 years of experience in the financial service industry, Patrick has held several leadership positions with Bank of America prior to his work with Community Banks of Colorado. Patrick’s dedication to being actively involved in the community is evident through his work with numerous organizations. Community Banks of Colorado has generously supported Third Way Center through their annual event, the Do More Charity Challenge which is how Patrick became involved with Third Way Center.

Planning and Promotion

Stacy has a masters degree in special education, particularly the learning disabled and emotional disturbed k-12 students.  She understands the population that TWC serves and the issues effecting residential treatment. As a long term supporter of TWC events and an organizer of others, she brings expertise around planning and promoting special events.