Leadership Staff

Hildegard Messenbaugh, MD
Founder and Medical Director

HIldegaard Messenbaugh, 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

Renee Johnson, LCSW, CAC III
Executive Director

Renee Johnson Program Director

Renee Johnson has a long history with Third Way Center going back to 1982 when she was hired as a relief overnight worker while still in grad school. During the 1980’s she worked as a therapist and was the first treatment leader at the newly opened Pontiac House.  In the 90’s she launched the next expansion at the Lincoln Apartments and was promoted to Clinical Director. Most recently she served as Program Director and has been instrumental in Third Way Center’s growth and development over the years. 

She leads the 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.

David Koehler, MBA
Assistant Executive Director

David Koehler CFO

Dave Koehler comes to Third Way Center with over 20 years of experience in Finance and Accounting. He has held several leadership positions including CFO/Controller at a large health education company and Director of Finance & Contracts at a health care quality improvement organization.

David earned his master’s degree in Finance and Accounting from Regis University. He holds a BA in Agriculture Business from Colorado State University. He 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.

Kristi Edmonds, Ph.D. LPC
Clinical Director

Kristi Edmonds 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. Since 2014 she has served as Clinical Director overseeing training and supervision of the five residential programs and two schools.

Kristi completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision at Walden University in 2019. She 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 has presented at local and national conferences on counselor burnout and vicarious trauma, staff retention, and counselor wellness.