As most of you (hopefully) know, there is a new powerhouse in town. Angela Christian, the first woman and African American Georgetown County administrator, is committed to helping our home prosper. Angela was born and raised in Dublin, Georgia, and received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Georgia Southern University. She always thought she would go to law school until she did an internship in her hometown and caught the “local government bug.” She then decided to attend the University of Tennessee where she earned her master’s degree in public administration. She laughed, “Yes, I thought I’d be a lawyer. I got sidetracked, but it led me to where I belong.”
Angela was able to obtain a scholarship in a field that was, and still mostly is, nontraditional for women. Angela explained, “My new position has certainly been very rewarding and fulfilling for me, personally and professionally. In my twenty years of government work, I have often been the only woman and only African American in the room. I take my job very seriously and it is particularly important for me to ‘get it right.’ As my role as a leader, it is very meaningful that I encourage staff development and young women to pursue this line of work. Special folks helped me on my journey, and I have a responsibility to prepare other young folks, wherever they may land so that they are ready to step into the footsteps someone else has put down before them. I feel like the path has been prepared for me and it’s important for me to ‘get it right’ for those who will come after me.”
The steps leading up to Angela’s new position started with her working as a budget analyst in Lee County, Florida. She claims that this large, fast-growing county on the coast is what set the stage for everything else she has done thus far. Before moving to South Carolina, she was working on the coast of North Carolina as the deputy manager where she was able to display her emergency management skills post-hurricane. Coastal living management is a different type of management and it has truly become Angela’s niche. She loves that these types of communities have dynamic environments with constant changes. She wanted to be a part of that change here and show us not only how to prepare for it, but how to embrace it.
I asked Angela, “Why Georgetown?” She replied, “This county was a unique opportunity and there were a couple of things particularly attractive about this area. I love the quirkiness along with the cultural, natural, and historical areas. We are sensitive to preserving all of these aspects that are facing more and more threats every day.” Angela is a big advocate for mother nature and understands that while we talk about building and growing, that we need to do so while being environmentally conscientious. She expressed that whether we are ready for it not, Georgetown is simply poised to change. Whether it be the environment, demographics, financials, or technology, Angela felt it was her duty to make sure we evolve strategically and with purpose.
Angela loves living here and feels so blessed to be surrounded by our beautiful landscapes and views that are both captivating and relaxing. One of her favorite spots is the Black River Park Project, a linear park that is now the site of the new state park which includes Rocky Point. Another underrated spot is Hasty Point which is now the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. She enjoys walking the beaches at Huntington State Park and through the paths of Brookgreen Gardens. She explained that her appreciation is for more than just the beaches, but the little areas too, as well as the folks who encompass them. She adores getting acquainted with the people here and listening to them as they tell their own Georgetown County stories.
Although she loves how friendly everyone has been and is just over the moon about the local cuisine, her trek moving to a new community was a bit more challenging. It was the first week of March 2020 when Angela accepted her position as the new county administrator. She gave herself two weeks to move and by that time, the pandemic had just officially begun. She said that on her way to Georgetown, she and her husband could count the number of other cars on the road on one hand. She remembers them just looking at each other, smiling, and saying, “Okay, here goes another adventure!” By no means did COVID-19 skew Angela’s focus.
When she arrived, most of the systems were manual and there were not enough laptops to go around. They didn’t quite have the technology equipped for a pandemic and every Monday a new department had to close due to an outbreak. Although these situations hindered their business at first, she liked that it gave people a chance to step up, get creative, and truly shine. They made changes on their business practices and their engagement with the community by broadening their base. They updated their technology, software, and website, and became more active with social media. They even produced their first television show with Georgetown News. Given the circumstances, Angela understood some businesses had to close down, but she knew it was imperative that they continue to serve the residents of the community the best way they could.
The toughest part for Angela personally was not being able to be as hands-on and meet the locals as she normally would. Everything was at a distance and as she explained, “You just cannot get the full flavor and spice of the community when you’re doing everything on zoom.” However, now that more people are getting vaccinated, she is excited to meet face to face with the people she has been corresponding with for several months. Last year, she was only able to get her toes wet, and now she’s getting to fully dive in – and she is loving every moment of it.
Angela is discovering new things the community has to offer all the time. One of the most unique opportunities she has had since being here is her ability to provide a platform to spotlight the many local nonprofits. She was astounded by all of the organizations within our community that are constantly doing the most amazing, behind-the-scenes work. Angela recognized that these businesses needed a forum to be highlighted, which can be found on their county council meeting livestreams: youtube.com/gtcountysc. Due to our transitional population, she understood how important it is to keep these things at the forefront to help our community grow and flourish.
As county administrator, Angela’s 2021 goals are to promote economic development, housing, staff development, employee pay, and compensation systems, as well as focus on the American Rescue Act Project, excess sales tax projects, and the future detention center project. She strives to continue Georgetown’s financial stability and to stabilize the technology in order to protect the county from future problems. Angela also plans to concentrate on emergency management, growth strategy, and most importantly, a sustainability plan.
Local government is Angela’s passion because it is the type of government where she can be the closest to people. She explained, “If I am in a state legislature, you have to go through ten people to get to me. In this role, you see me walking downtown or at the farmer’s market, and you are able to talk to me directly about your concerns. I am constantly looking at our surroundings and thinking to myself, does that look like a neighborhood I would want my family to live in? Is that playground or park safe for my children to play in? You have to make it yours, so that is why I am here, to ‘get it right.’”
Angela does not view her job as to just run county government, or to just live in a beautiful, safe area. She aspires to make this place “home.”
Without a doubt, Sasee is pleased that the future of our sacred county is in the hands of Angela and her wonderful team, and so thankful she found Georgetown County is where she truly belongs.