Firehouse Cultural Center has a new steward
By LOIS KINDLE
Chris Bredbenner, 56, is the new executive director of the Firehouse Cultural Center.
He started Jan. 2, and since then he’s been transitioning into the role with outgoing director, Georgia Vahue.
“It’s a blessing to have the inaugural executive director here to hand this gem over to my stewardship,” Bredbenner said. “I look forward to working with the board and connecting with local donors and corporations who will support the (Firehouse’s) ongoing mission.”
The Ruskin resident of five years brings a plethora of experience to the position.
Born at MacDill Air Force Base, he grew up in and around the South County area, where his family kept a boat at Bahia Beach.
“As a Brandon resident, I grew up exploring Ruskin and the surrounding area,” Bredbenner said. “I graduated from Berkeley Prep in 1981 and earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Stetson University in 1985.”
His work experience includes more than 25 years of leadership and building community-based programs for companies like Anheuser-Busch Brewing Co., Macdonald Training Center, The Florida Aquarium, the Hernando Pasco Hospice and others.
“Although I have a deep appreciation for arts and music from my liberal arts education, it was my background in community involvement and desire to continue the successes of the Firehouse Cultural Center that appealed to the board,” Bredbenner said.
The new executive director wants the cultural center to be at the forefront of people’s minds.
“To some degree, its contributions to the community are well-known, and to some degree they are unknown,” he said. “My goal is to continue to grow and expand access to cultural activities in the South Shore area and build greater awareness of all we offer.”
That’s music to the ears to the board and staff of the Firehouse. “We’re delighted for new leadership and the opportunities it brings,” said Beth Stein, marketing and operations coordinator for the Firehouse. “It will help us continue the growth pattern we’ve experienced for the past seven years.
“Any time new blood is introduced in an organization, it offers a new direction, new ideas and new energy, which will lead to the further expansion of our mission in the community,” she said.
Georgia Vahue, the center’s executive director since May 2013, is moving on to a new phase in her life.
“I’m retiring from working but not from serving,” she said. “I’m extremely proud of what the board, staff and I accomplished in getting the Firehouse Cultural Center off the ground and very happy it’s now known throughout the Tampa Bay region as a venue for outstanding, innovative and engaging programs.”
Vahue has left a lasting legacy.
“As our founding director, Georgia laid a solid foundation that Chris can now build on,” said Sandy Council, founding president and now vice president of the Firehouse Cultural Center board. “I’m confident his experience in community-based fundraising and long-term commitment to South Shore will be a great fit for the Firehouse Cultural Center’s future.”