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April 19, 2023
The Hilton Head Island Town Council has appointed two council members and three area residents with business and community leadership experience to serve on the Gullah Geechee Historic Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (CDC) Board of Directors.
Last September, Town Council created the CDC to support the preservation, advancement, and sustainability of historic and culturally sensitive communities on Hilton Head Island. Those include the communities of Bay Gall, Big Hill, Chaplin, Gardner, Grassland, Jarvis, Jonesville, Marshland, Mitchelville, Spanish Wells, Squire Pope, and Stoney.
"Organizing this board is a critical step towards our goal of helping Gullah Geechee residents and business owners with solutions to enhance their lives and communities and help them thrive amid Island wide changes impacting the culture. With local and state support behind them, the CDC and its board will lead the charge to create positive solutions to many challenges," said Mayor Alan Perry.
The CDC's by-laws allow for a maximum of nine voting directors, including two Town Council members representing historic Gullah Geechee neighborhoods. The other seven members are to be individuals who represent a variety of backgrounds and interests and can help facilitate community building.
The first five individuals named to the CDC's board are:
"We believe the individuals chosen to serve on the CDC board of directors bring significant experience and knowledge to empower the Island's Gullah Geechee communities. Their business and community involvement is deep and broad," said Town Manager Marc Orlando. "In addition, they are savvy and represent the caliber of leadership needed to build the foundation of this organization and set the vision to guide its work. Their initial priority will be working with me to recruit and select the CDC’s first executive director."
Rev. Louis Johnson
Johnson brings a wealth of community and religious leadership experience with the Island's Gullah Geechee community. For 24 years, he has pastored Central Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Hilton Head Island. He is the current president of the Ministerial Alliance, consisting of the Gullah churches on Hilton Head Island. In addition, he served on the Fourth of July One Island One Community Planning Committee and has participated in faith-based initiatives to address hunger. He is a chaplain with the Town's Fire Rescue Department.
"I am happy to be chosen to serve and try to help establish a lasting legacy and history of Gullah heritage on the Island. I also hope to help Gullah persons pursue their dreams of land development and entrepreneurship that will last for generations," Johnson said.
Brubaker has an extensive background in business consulting, strategy, and development. His experience ranges from heading a small start-up company measuring radiation to leading strategy and managing larger manufacturing companies. He co-founded The Gladstone Companies, a business development corporation, and is its chief operating officer.
"I look forward to learning about the hopes and dreams of residents within the Gullah Geechee communities and help them achieve prosperity, land preservation, generational wealth and legacies for their families," Brubaker said. "I’m excited to be a part of this initiative to create opportunities for start-ups and other important programs."
Shirley "Peaches" Peterson
Peterson has a wide range of experiences in management counseling and coaching. Her professional career encompassed human resources and consulting roles with Prudential Insurance, Maritz Motivation Company, and McDonnell Douglass Missile Systems. Locally, she mentors young women and serves on the boards of directors for the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. In addition, she is on the Women in Philanthropy Advisory Board and is the past board chairperson for the Mitchelville Preservation Project.
"I am happy to serve the Hilton Head Island community this way, and I will do my best to be effective in this new role. Having served with the Mitchelville Preservation Project for my years, it was eye-opening to learn about the perseverance of Gullah people. I hope I can help elevate Gullah people and the Gullah communities so they can be economically and culturally vibrant," Peterson said.
Councilmember David Ames
Elected to Town Council in 2016, Ames represents Ward 4, which includes portions of the Spanish Wells Gullah Geechee community. He has been involved with numerous community organizations and Town committees, including the Mayor's Task Force, the Land Management Ordinance Rewrite Committee, the Beaufort County Aviation Board, and the Circle-to-Circle Committee.
"I see tremendous opportunities coming out of the CDC. It has the flexibility to do things and can attract foundation grants and other sources of money that may not be as readily available to the Town government. Because of its board selection, it can be closer to the community. It is designed to serve and has the fantastic potential to do things that will benefit our constituents on the Island and can set a tone and be a model for other communities to follow," Ames said.
Councilmember Alex Brown
Brown, a native Islander elected to Town Council in 2020, represents Ward 1, which includes portions of all Gullah Geechee communities. He previously chaired the Town's Planning Commission and served on the Town's Vision Project Management Team. In addition, he is involved with several community organizations. For the past 30 years, he has made his career at Resort Retail Associates, where he is currently the Vice-President of Operations.
"I'm super excited because this is a new tool in our toolbox for preserving the presence of Gullah people and culture within our 12 historic neighborhoods. I'm looking forward to the CDC being an opportunity to educate, stabilize, and provide a quality of life that will hopefully be duplicated throughout the Gullah Geechee corridor," Brown said.
About the CDC
The CDC, which will be funded with $5 million in seed money from the South Carolina General Assembly, will achieve its objectives by:
The CDC board of directors will be responsible for the following:
The first meeting of this historic board will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Town Hall, 1 Town Center Court.
For more information about the Gullah Geechee Historic Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation and its board members, visit hiltonheadislandsc.gov/gullahgeecheecdc.
Note: To view this news release in Spanish or other native languages, choose your appropriate language from our dropdown menu on the upper right side of our website page.
Nota: Para ver este comunicado de prensa en español u otros idiomas nativos, visite hiltonheadislandsc.gov y elija el idioma apropiado de nuestro menú desplegable en el lado superior derecho de la página de inicio del sitio web.
Carolyn Grant, Communications Director
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