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Pam Iorio to retire from Big Brothers Big Sisters as agency hires historic new leader

Artis Stevens will serve as the first Black CEO in the program’s history, following the retirement of former Tampa mayor Pam Iorio, who persuaded the organization to move its headquarters to Tampa.

After two terms as Tampa’s mayor and nearly seven years as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Pam Iorio is retiring. And as the 61-year-old moves into the next stage of her life, she expressed pride in passing a more stable organization to her successor, Artis Stevens, who will serve as the organization’s first Black CEO in its 116-year history.

“There’s so much room for growth of our mission,” Iorio said. “And I think Artis is exactly the type of leader that Big Brothers Big Sisters needs right now.”

During her tenure, Iorio focused on stabilizing the program, in terms of its finances, its staffing and its relationship to other organizations. The program modernized its training and began relationships with partners such as the NFL and Starbucks. After her first year on the job, Iorio also persuaded Big Brothers Big Sisters to relocate its headquarters to Tampa.

“I could never separate from Tampa. This is my home,” she told the Tampa Bay Times in 2016.

A career in politics helped her navigate the challenges of heading a nationwide organization of branches both large and small in sometimes very culturally different areas.

“When you’re in politics, you really work on building consensus,” she said.

Iorio isn’t sure what her next plans are, but she celebrated the births of two grandchildren this year. She’s excited to see where Stevens takes the organization. He will officially take charge Jan. 25.

In a news release Monday, Big Brothers Big Sisters Board Chair Ken Burdick praised both Stevens and Iorio.

“We thank Pam Iorio for her commitment and dedication in building a strong foundation for our organization,” Burdick said in a statement. “Pam was instrumental in establishing a 5-year strategic plan focused on innovative technology solutions, new funding opportunities and brand transformation. As we look to the future, we know Artis has the expertise — and passion — to lead this organization and defend the potential of youth across the country.”

As the program’s next leader, Stevens plans to focus on ways to gain more support for the organization so it can scale and reach more children, both through increased funding and more volunteers.

Stevens most recently served as senior vice president and chief marketing officer of the National 4-H Council. Before that, he was an executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, where he launched a robust marketing and fundraising campaign.

When he got a call that he had been chosen as the the next president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Stevens was thrilled.

“It was surreal,” he said. As the organization’s first Black CEO, Stevens said he is proud to break through a barrier and set an example for young children, including his daughters.

As more kids face the challenges of living through a pandemic, organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters are even more important, Stevens said. Today’s youth need positive role models to help guide them through these times, he said.

“We know that they have the potential, we know that they have the spirit to succeed, we see that,” said Stevens, who turns 47 Saturday. “But they also need the support and the care and the cultivation of adults to help them succeed.”