MEET THE TEAM
Gatekeepers is an organization that focuses on re-entry. Our mission is to motivate, empower, and encourage both current and ex-offenders through mentoring services by challenging them to make positive decisions and ultimately help facilitate the process of a successful transition back to their communities. These individuals often do not have positive role models in their life to aid them in their efforts. At Gatekeepers, our team is dedicated to helping people overcome obstacles standing in their way to achieving success and reaching their life goals.
Bill Gaertner is the founder and leader of Gatekeepers in Washington County, a program that helps ex-offenders transition back into their communities after serving time in prison. How does he know what they need? He’s been in their shoes. Gaertner served eight-and-a-half years in prison for domestic abuse. Bills redemption story centers around the Prodical Son. While in prison, a Catholic deacon gave Bill a copy of Henri Nouwen’s Book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, which is based on Rembrandt’s painting. Bill says, "It became my Bible and I still carry it around with me wherever I go. It was the foundation for my re-entry program. I got out Sept. 23, 2013, and six days later went to St. Mary’s in Hagerstown. I walked into the 9:30 Mass and there was a life-sized painting of the Prodigal Son. I cried and knew then that this was where I belonged. That is how Gatekeepers started (in 2014). It is all based on the Prodigal Son.”
Bill was the point guard on a junior college team from Independence, Kansas, that won a national championship. He coached at the college level, including a stint at Towson University, Johns Hopkins, the University of Connecticut and assisted the legendary Jim Valvano coaching at Iona college. He was the head coach at Norwich University in Vermont. Bill was also inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 in the Pathfinders Category for people with New England roots who left the region and earned great distinction in basketball and/or society. Those coaching skills and basketball connections still pay dividends. Basketball is “the common language” inside prisons. Bill's faith continues to serve as a foundation for life. He attends Mass regularly and is now an oblate novice at the Benedictine community of St. Anselm’s Abbey in Washington, D.C. “The only way I can say I am sorry to my victim and others I harmed is to wake up every day and do the best (I can) and be the best person I can be that day.”
Keith is currently the Operations Director for Gatekeepers. He met Bill while walking around the rec yard at a state prison back in 2011 and has been working with Bill since Gatekeepers got started.
Keith has a bachelor’s degree in geology and, thanks to the US Navy, the equivalent of a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He was an Eagle Scout and did over 400 nights of camping before he was 18. When he graduated from the University of Missouri in 1980, he went directly to the Navy’s Nuclear Power School. He served for two years on the USS Enterprise and got to visit the Philippines, Kenya, Australia, Singapore, and Japan while working as a nuclear engineer onboard her. After five years of active duty, Keith switched to the Naval Reserve intelligence field and worked in three different civilian nuclear plants for nine years. After that, he managed a western boot store in downtown Seattle, was a city cop in a small coastal Oregon town for five years, worked at the Pentagon for over a year as a recalled Naval Reservist, and, before his arrest in 2009, he worked on classified cyber warfare projects at the National Security Agency for over nine years. He spent 25 months in a state prison from 2010 to 2012. One of the good outcomes was that he got back into the Bible and renewed his faith. He joined the prison church leadership team and soon was preaching sermons, mentoring younger guys, and doing baptisms. He also started writing books, mostly for inmates and ex-offenders, (devotionals, Bible studies, anger management, leadership training, etc.) and with his daughter's help, there are currently over 24 different books for sale on Amazon.
Seth Dodson joined the team in the fall of 2022 after completing his internship with Gatekeepers. Seth will serve as a Resource Coordinator and work to make new connections within the local community to better assist returning citizens. Seth will also be leading the effort to build a better online presence for Gatekeepers.
Seth completed his Bachelor's degree in Social Work at Shepherd University and is now working on his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Salisbury. Seth is a longtime resident of Hagerstown.