New director of Historic Beaufort Foundation called 'problem-solver, willing listener'

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New director of Historic Beaufort Foundation called 'problem-solver, willing listener'

By JULIANN VACHON jvachon@beaufortgazette.com 843-706-8184
Published Friday, October 8, 2010   |  750 Words  |  news

One of the first changes Julie Good plans for the Historic Beaufort Foundation might seem insignificant -- she ordered a new sign to hang outside the organization's downtown office.
But considering the foundation has operated on West Street for years with nothing but a tiny sticker in the window bearing its name -- an intentional decision to keep a low profile -- the sign marks a shift in leadership, Pete Palmer, chairman of the foundation's board, said.
"One of Evan's strengths was a love of research," said Palmer, referring to former executive director Evan Thompson. "Well, that meant Evan didn't want to have a sign in the door because people would interrupt him. ... Julie's approach is more like 'hey, you have some interest? We want to see you.' She understands that interruptions are her business."
Thompson, praised by many, including Palmer, for his work at the foundation, resigned earlier this year to take the executive director's post at the Preservation Society of Charleston.
Good, a Dallas native and former executive director of the nonprofit Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation in Lexington, Ky., beat out about 48 other applicants for the job. At 29, she was the youngest of seven finalists interviewed by foundation board members, Palmer said.
Her accessibility, organizational skills, inclusive nature and ability to ask good questions were amongher top qualities, Palmer said.
"People need to feel a sense of ownership and be engaged," Good said this week. "I want people to approach us and talk with us. It's just how I operate."
Good reported to work about three weeks ago and is still settling into the position, she said. Her first priorities include revamping the foundation's website -- expected to be completed by January -- and reorganizing internally. She's working with the foundation board and staff on a new strategic plan and on a 2011 budget.
"I really want to experience living in Beaufort and the organization before suggesting changes," Good said. "I'm looking at being in support mode right now, seeing how things have operated the last few years and how we can keep moving forward."
Good studied anthropology and sociology as an undergraduate at Centre College in Danville, Ky., and received her master's degree in historic preservation at the University of Kentucky.
She wrote her master's thesis on "adaptive reuse" of religious buildings, which City Councilman Mike Sutton finds exciting and applicable to Beaufort, which has empty buildings and vacant lots prime for redevelopment throughout its historic district, he said.
"We need someone who's willing to work with the system on adaptive reuse," Sutton said.
After a string of internships, Good landed at the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation as a filer in October 2006.
Just over a month later, she was hired as director for historic properties.
After five months, she was promoted to executive director.
Among her biggest accomplishments there, she said, was "really working to professionalize the organization."She chaired the trust's antiques and garden show for three years and created more educational programming, including some targeted at children, she said.
Andrea Gottler, a volunteer with the trust who worked closely with Good, called her organized, "an unbelievable problem-solver" and a willing listener.
Gottler recalled the final event Good organized before leaving -- a lobster festival to fund a new handicap bathroom in one of the trust's historic properties.
"She got people to work well together for a common good, even though there were different factions of the trust," Gottler said. "It was just a great few years while it lasted."
Good's time there taught her the importance of working as closely as possible with city leaders and developers "to be in on discussions at the front end."
In Lexington, she sometimes felt "a lot of pressure from developers" and sensed that not everyone valued the area's historic resources, she said.
Beaufort -- chartered in 1711 and South Carolina's second oldest city -- feels different, she said.
"So far I've found people really interested and engaged," Good said. "People here think about preservation at the beginning."
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said after meeting with Good twice, it seemed clear that "she's there to preserve, but she understands the community has to grow."
Good and Keyserling appear to be on the same page in that regard.
"We're here to help," she said. "We're not here to impede progress."