Ashley Brundage stepping down as TBGLCC president as the Chamber announces diversified name change

By : Jeremy Williams
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TAMPA – Changes are a necessity for any organization to grow and adapt to changing social climates, and the Tampa Bay Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is no different.

Earlier this year, the executive board started a discussion to make changes to the Chambers’ name and shake up the leadership’s rankings.

“We explored for about 10 months the process of changing the name to be more inclusive for the whole community,” says Ashley Brundage, the current President of the Chamber. “We didn’t want it to be one of those names that kept getting longer and longer and longer with more letters.”

The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce was picked, along with a new logo of the Skyway Bridge and the word DIVERSITY in the rainbow colors.

“We started thinking about what one word could encompass everyone? It’d be inclusive. Because I think it’s really about being inclusive. That’s what, really for me, is the next step in the LGBT movement, is to make LGBT more inclusive and to make us a part of another layer of diversity. So that we can normalize society and grow our businesses, grow our everything, without hitting barriers,” Brundage says.

The Diversity Chamber is a collection of 180 businesses, corporate partners, affiliate partners and social members from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and the surrounding areas. While many of the businesses involved with the Chamber are gay-owned, most of them are not.

“The name change reflects the businesses that are involved in the chamber,” says Eric Mathis, the Diversity Chamber’s Vice President.“Now we do have a lot of gay and lesbian-owned businesses, but we also have transgender-owned businesses, bisexual-owned businesses and allied-partnered businesses.”

The organization’s name is not the only thing that is changing for the Chamber. After spending five years with the Chamber, the last three as the board president, Brundage is stepping down from the position.

“We just think that as an organization that we need fresh ideas and fresh people at the helm,” Brundagesays.“I think it’s important for growth and leadership to have other people involved in the community.”

Brundage plans to finish out the year as Chamber president before turning it over to Mathis.

“We felt that a really long transition time – I know a little bit about that – would be great,” Brundage joked. “I see Eric as a really phenomenal speaker, very professional, but he also understands the community, all members of the community, including allies.”

Brundagesays that stepping down now is not only just to mix things up, it’s to free up time that she needs to take the community’s message to a bigger stage.

“I just recently got a promotion at [PNC Bank], and I’m being ask to do a lot stuff nationally, so I kind of need to free up my ability to not just focus on Tampa Bay,” Brundage says. “There’s not enough transgender advocates advocating on a larger platform, so I’m looking at some national organizational boards and my new job requires a lot more of my time and energy and focus, not just on Tampa Bay, but on all parts of the community, but I’m going to live here still.”

Mathis, once voted and approved by the Chamber, will step in as president and realizes he has some big shoes to fill.

“My hope is to continue to build upon what Ashley and the Chamber started –the Diamonds (now called the Diamonds in Diversity Awards), the mentorship program that she has put in place – but I have realized that I am not and will not be Ashley Brundage,” Mathis says.“I am honored that I had the opportunity to work under her as vice president, she is someone I look up to and have become friends with first before joining the Chamber.”

Mathis was born and raised in Sarasota and currently lives in St. Petersburg with his fiancé, so he feels well prepared to bridge the LGBT communities of Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota.

“As you see in our new logo, the Skyway Bridge, it’s not only the gateway to Tampa Bay, but to me bridges the distance between where we were and where we are going in all of our communities,” Mathis says.

Mathis is currently working on a Chamber dinner for November 15 that will be a celebration of the new name change and of Brundage’s work while Chamber president.

“It’ll be an evening where we celebrate, but also recognize the diverse community we live in,” Mathis says.“I’ve asked Ashley, myself and another board member to spend 10 minutes and speak more personally on what diversity has meant to them along their journey, to give our members and guests an opportunity to better understand not only the chamber and who we represent and where we are going, but who are some of the people who run the Chamber of Commerce.”

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