For Immediate Release

The Plains, Ohio – Rural Action is excited to announce that Joe Brehm will be stepping into the role of Chief Program Officer. Brehm has worked with the organization for 12 years and previously held the position of Environmental Education Program Director. Since 2010 Joe has interacted with more than 20,000 kids across Appalachian Ohio through Environmental Education programming as well as facilitating paid high school internships alongside Rural Action’s partner Building Bridges to Careers.

Brehm has been fortunate to observe many of these kids holding salamanders, starting fires without matches for the first time, and tossing homemade mud balls into Sunday Creek. “It has been and continues to be one of the greatest honors I can imagine to share these wild and life-giving Appalachian streams and forests with their muddy faces and curious minds,” said Brehm.

“Joe Brehm has a long tenure with Rural Action, and he has a clear vision for the role of the organization in our region as we seek to scale sustainable, resilient local systems,” said Rural Action CEO Debbie Phillips. “His passion for Appalachian Ohio and the depth of his care for the people of the region provide an anchor for that vision, and we are excited to work with him in this new leadership role.”

Rural Action’s current CPO Brian Vadakin, who has been with the organization since 2016, previously served as the Social Enterprise Coordinator. In that role, he provided business development assistance to Rural Action’s social enterprises and connected Southeast Ohio’s social entrepreneurs with technical assistance.

As CPO, Vadakin oversaw all program directors, assisted with grant writing and management, and kept the organization on track through its incredible growth over the last few years. Vadakin worked closely with Phillips, and together they doubled both staff and annual revenue. Vadakin is moving on to join a multigenerational family business and looks forward to bringing the mission and experiences of serving Rural Action to his new journey. Rural Action’s staff, service members, board, and partners are all grateful for Vadakin’s contributions to Rural Action during his tenure.

Bryn Sowash is also stepping into a new role as the Operations Coordinator, a position created to oversee operations and system management of our organization as it continues to grow. Sowash was previously working with the Rural Action National Service program.

Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 32-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at


Alexandria Polanosky
Rural Action Media and Communications Director
740 677 4047 ext. 140