A ninth-generation South Carolinian on both sides of her family, Beaufort County’s new administrator says public service is in her DNA.
Ashley Jacobs, who came from her position as Aiken County’s assistant county administrator, had been at her new job 101 days on July 25 when she addressed members of the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce at a morning coffee talk.
Both sides of her family settled in different counties in the early 1700s, and served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, as sheriffs, on school boards, on city council and county council.
“I think that has really shaped my family life; that has a huge impact on how people behave,” Jacobs said. “So, as a result, I grew up in a family that was very politically active and very community oriented. There was a lot of reverence and awe for people who served the community well.”
Jacobs thinks about the county in two ways.
“There’s everything that’s above me, and there’s everything that’s below me,” she said. “Everything that’s above me is what’s going on with county council with their objectives with the media, the public, with all our boards and commissions. … Below me is all of the employees, the day-to-day operations.”
Jacobs said her goal is to beef up employee recruiting, ensure that current employees are correctly placed, do some reorganization and work on the budget. Her plan is to have the county open and available for the expanding aerospace and high-tech industries.
“I think Beaufort County can easily capitalize and be involved and benefit from those two things,” she said, noting that there is a large aviation community in the area with people who own their own airplanes and are flying in and out of local airports.
Jacobs noted cultural heritage tourism development is another goal.
“We have an embarrassment of riches,” she said, noting the Penn Center, Mitchelville, and the county’s location making it part of a very important corridor between Charleston and Savannah, as well as being part of the larger Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
“What happens in the past matters. It informs the shape of the future,” said Jacobs. “What I do now … in the community, I know that my decisions will shape and inform the future. It will have an impact 20 years from now, 50 years from now.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.