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jacobsaMEET NEW COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR ASHLEY JACOBS

Growing up in the 1980s in Aiken — which was selected by Southern Living magazine last year as “The South’s No. 1 Small Town” — Ashley Jacobs probably didn’t realize how her surroundings were shaping her future.

Today, Jacobs is Beaufort County’s new administrator, and she’s expected to play a major role in propelling the county forward.

Beaufort County Council was unanimous in selecting her for the position over 70 other applicants after an 18-month search. The position comes with a $190,000 annual salary — $7,500 more than previous administrator Gary Kubic was paid. Kubic retired in 2017, and Jacobs took over in April.

DIVERSE TRACK RECORD

Jacobs brings 20 years of public administration experience to Beaufort County. She most recently was an assistant county administrator in Aiken County; she’s also held that position in three other South Carolina counties. She also was a senior environmental planner for the Central Midlands Council of Governments in Columbia.

Her former bosses say Jacobs’ experience in community and economic development, emergency management, disaster preparedness, environmental planning and public safety matters make her a good fit for Beaufort County.

She is “very businesslike, who knows how to relate to a diversity of people, and will take on any challenge,” said Aiken County administrator Clay Killian. “Ashley was a good adviser for me. She is an out-of-the-box thinker.”

PASSION FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

Jacobs got her first taste of county administration when she was growing up in Aiken, where her family was friends with the town’s city manager, Roland Windham, who held that position for 28 years.

“I often heard stories about what Mr. Windham was doing to fix problems around our city. It was fascinating to me that his job was to improve our community and benefit people's lives,” Jacobs said. After her undergraduate work at Clemson, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina.

When she was hired by Beaufort County, Jacobs said she believed the county needed stability in its administration. “Building stability is something that you do over time by delivering on your promises and by establishing and developing relationships within your organization,” she said.

COMMITMENT TO EQUALITY

As part of her passion for improving the community, Jacobs has paid particular attention to gender equality in the workplace, including zero tolerance for harassment. As part of these efforts, she has taken a leading role in national organizations — she’s served as president of the League of Women in Government, headquartered in California and working to advance women in local government leadership.

Jacobs is the first woman to fill the role of Beaufort County administrator, and she said she is ready for the challenge.

“City/county management is not for the faint of heart,” she told the audience at a January meeting of the International City/County Management Association. “When you’re feeling unsure of yourself, just think of this wonderful Italian phrase: Conosco i miei polli. The literal translation is: I know my chickens — meaning, I know what I'm talking about. … So believe in yourself and trust in your instincts."