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North Pinellas Business News for Feb. 2

Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito, left, Dunedin Fine Art Center executive director George Ann Bissett, Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers and Joe Kokolakis, the project’s general contractor, gather to celebrate work on a new addition to the arts facility.
Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito, left, Dunedin Fine Art Center executive director George Ann Bissett, Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers and Joe Kokolakis, the project’s general contractor, gather to celebrate work on a new addition to the arts facility.
Published Jan. 31, 2014

On Jan. 21, an addition of nearly 11,000 square feet was "topped out" at the Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd.

During a short ceremony, DFAC's executive director, George Ann Bissett, thanked everyone who made the undertaking possible, including Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers and City Manager Rob DiSpirito, private donors, DFAC board members and all of the construction crew.

The $3.5 million project was designed by Collman and Karsky Architects of Tampa and constructed by J. Kokolakis Contracting of Tarpon Springs.

"It's exciting to see this project moving forward," said Catherine Bergmann, DFAC's adult education director. "This will mean so much for the adult students in the Gladys Douglas School for the Arts, and all of our visitors."

The "topping out" included the enclosure of the second floor, though interior completion of that level will await additional funding, said Ken Hannon, DFAC's associate executive director.

The construction, made possible by a state matching grant and funding from the city, will add a new gallery and four studio/classrooms as well as house a newly renovated Gallery Gift Shop and Palm Cafe.

• • •

AmeriLife, a national annuity, life and health insurance marketing group based in Clearwater, has named Janet L. Sipes its new chief administrative officer.

An insurance authority with 19 years of management experience with Aviva USA, which specializes in annuities and life insurance, Sipes will work closely with AmeriLife president/CFO Gary Jenkins on driving organizational initiatives and projects, including the implementation of corporate strategic goals.

"Janet's vast experience in both marketing and operations — and her consummate familiarity with annuities — makes her uniquely suited to join AmeriLife's executive team," Jenkins said.

Sipes, educated at Kentucky's Pikeville Methodist College and Emporia State University in Kansas, began her career in banking before joining Aviva as a marketing director with its American Investors Life (AmVestors Financial Group) in 1994.

She was named senior vice president of sales and distribution for Aviva in 2006 and served as Aviva's vice president of relationship annuities IMO from 2008 until joining AmeriLife this month.

• • •

Susan Rolston, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas Inc., has announced her retirement, effective June 27.

Before joining the agency in 2001, Rolston worked 16 years for Pinellas County Schools.

Under Rolston's leadership, all areas of the agency have experienced substantial growth. The number of children served by the agency has increased from 400 in 2001 to 1,433 in 2013 and there has been a significant expansion of both the budget and donor base.

"Being recognized locally and nationally as an evidence-based social service nonprofit that provides high-quality mentoring to children is extremely rewarding," Rolston said. "Reaching that level of achievement in the midst of diversifying revenue sources was a satisfying, yet aggressive challenge."

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She leaves the agency with a scholarship endowment in place for graduating Littles and expects to stay involved with local programs and activities that will give children in need the opportunity for a better life.

"On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to genuinely thank Susan for her leadership at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Susan's legacy will continue to further the agency under the steadfast direction of the strong team established during her years of service," said Dave Fox, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters' board of directors. He is senior vice president of manufacturing and advertiser content at Valpak.

In a retirement announcement to her staff members, Rolston wrote, "I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the board members and executive staff by working together to enrich the lives of children who need us the most."

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