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Murrells Inlet 2020: Ex-director returns to lead community group

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Sue Sledz didn’t know if Murrells Inlet 2020 would welcome her back when she applied to be its executive director last month.

But now that it has, she’s ready to get to work helping the community revitalization group decide on a new direction. The group is looking at redefining its mission, dropping some of its events and possibly eliminating its office space.

“I expect it to be a challenge to help the board sort through all these decisions it’s trying to make, but I am fundamentally driven by challenges, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity,” she said.

Sledz, 58, who has lived in Murrells Inlet for 13 years, was the group’s executive director from 2004 to 2008, and managed a number of its projects as a volunteer for two years before that. She left her position in 2008, when the group was still known as Murrells Inlet 2007, to start up a community revitalization group in Yemassee, about 20 miles west of Beaufort.

“I was intrigued by the challenge of getting something going from nothing,” she said. But she wasn’t willing to leave her home in Murrells Inlet to take the job, so she has been splitting her time for the last two-and-a-half years, working there one week and from home the next. She never intended the arrangement to last so long, but wasn’t motivated to make a change until she heard her old job was available again.

Sledz’s replacement, Jennifer Averette, announced plans to resign in November to move to North Carolina, where her husband has already started a new job.

When Sledz first heard about the opening around Christmas, she didn’t give it much thought, she said, but people in the community encouraged her to apply and the more she thought about it, the more it seemed like a good idea.

“The bottom line is I love Murrells Inlet and I think I can help them out,” Sledz said. “I believe I have some value to add.”

Murrells Inlet 2020’s board of directors thought so, too. A selection committee had already picked three finalists for the job and presented them to the board when Sledz applied. But board members didn’t seem satisfied with their choices. They were talking about broadening the search or starting all over.

Sledz “had to go through the process just like everybody else,” said Whitney Hills, who chairs the board. But Hills admits she was thrilled when Sledz applied.

The board met with Sledz last week and decided unanimously to hire her.

“It’s an extremely logical decision and it will definitely make the transition much easier, because Sue is not going to need a whole lot of training,” said Hills. “She’s been there, done that.”

But Sledz will spend some time with Averette to get “updated” on the workings of the group, Hills said. Averette’s last day was supposed to be earlier this month, but she’s staying on part-time until Sledz gets settled.

Sledz is eager to get started, she said, but wants to make sure the group she is leaving is in “a solid place,” so she will split her time between the two for a couple of months. “On this end, we’ve got spring events we need to take care of, so it’s going to be crazy,” she said. She will gradually decrease her efforts with the Yemassee group and increase them in Murrells Inlet.

“By mid May I expect to be settled here 100 percent, full-time and boots on the ground,” Sledz said. And she encourages people to drop by Murrells Inlet 2020’s office across the street from Spuds and talk with her about the inlet.

Sledz is already planning and promoting upcoming events: the MarshWalk Masters on April 9, Spring Tide creek cleanup on April 10, Inlet 5K race on May 21 and the spring Chowder Talk, for which a date hasn’t been set.

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