Steve Bedard, the city of Charleston’s chief financial officer, will take over management of the Gaillard Center. Bedard replaces Tom Tomlinson, who is resigning effective June 6 after two years at the helm.
Bedard will transition from his current role to his new one as chief executive officer of the nonprofit Gaillard Management Corp. over the next two and a half months, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg announced Monday. Bedard has served since May 1998 as the city’s first CFO.
“We are confident in a smooth transition, with reliance on both Steve and the remarkable team he’s assembled in that department,” Tecklenburg said in a statement.
Luther Cochrane, Gaillard Management chairman, said he appreciated Tomlinson’s “tireless work” in helping to open the center.
“Tom has done a fine job of creating an environment which people love and which supports the cultural, entertainment and educational needs of our community,” Cochrane said in a statement. “His expertise really helped us get through this first critical season. We thank him for his service and respect his decision to resign.”
The Gaillard’s opening season generally has been successful, despite construction delays and their ripple effect. Still, four people have quit the staff in recent weeks, and some patrons have complained about high ticket prices as well as what they see as the building’s structural and design problems. Work hours have been long and demanding.
Cash flow is a challenge, partly because of a typical spring revenue lull before the new season is announced and partly because of the Gaillard’s start-up status and low cash reserves.
Bedard’s financial and managerial expertise will be a welcome addition to the Gaillard team, board member Renee Anderson said. He was not hired on an interim basis but will assume Tomlinson’s responsibilities for the foreseeable future, Anderson said.
Tomlinson was selected in March 2014 by the Gaillard’s 17-member board of directors. At the time, then-Mayor Joe Riley called him “the clear choice.”
“I am incredibly proud to have been in Charleston as part of the leadership team for the launch of the Gaillard Center and its phenomenal reception by the community,” Tomlinson said in a statement. “My family is fond of Charleston, yet we are eager to return to our home on the west coast, be near our families and open another hall there prior to taking a retirement consulting and/or teaching career.”
Tomlinson’s career has included leadership posts at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, the Orange County Performing Arts Center in California, the Performing Arts Center of Greater Miami and the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. Charleston is the ninth city he has lived in.
He has had his critics, and from the beginning some raised concerns about his track record, citing news articles about sudden resignations.
Tomlinson spent 10 years in Atlanta as managing director of capital projects for the Woodruff Arts Center, working with famed architect Santiago Calatrava and acoustician Larry Kirkegaard, an experience Tomlinson counts among his big achievements. His experience as the second director of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, instead, was tainted by tension with the board, he said. “It was not a good fit.”
Tomlinson said he most enjoys the early phases of a project — construction, initial programming, staffing — “because it’s always a challenge.”
“Once it gets down into daily operations, I have to admit it’s not something I enjoy as much,” he said. “And it’s probably not at the top of my skill set.”
Bedard said a recent financial audit of the Gaillard revealed no problems. He expressed confidence that the Gaillard would emerge from its start-up year on stable footing. The challenge for the Gaillard now, Bedard said, is to improve its unearned income (donations).
Bedard, 62, was instrumental in managing the Gaillard renovation project. In a letter to Tecklenburg, he wrote: “I can say, unequivocally, I would not leave my present position for any other professional opportunity but this one.” Bedard’s deputy, Amy Wharton, will act as interim CFO.