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Murrells Inlet: Revitalization director will step down in August
By Charles Swenson
Executive director Sue Sledz told members of the Murrells Inlet 2020 board of directors Wednesday that she plans to retire in August.
The end of summer, she said, would be the best time to bring in a new executive director because fund-raising, projects and the budget are in the planning stages. “By the time I officially retire,” Sledz said, “I will have been with this organization nine and one-half years – one and one-half years as a volunteer and eight years as your executive director. I’ve put my heart and soul into this position. It’s been a passion. I have always put the good of the organization and the best interest of the community as a whole first and forefront in all my work. I thank you for your support. I thank you for your trust. I thank you for your loyalty. It’s been a great ride. It has been my honor and my pleasure to have had the opportunity to serve you and this community.”
Sledz said she came back as executive director in 2011 with a three-year commitment to make changes she felt were necessary in the operation. “It all goes back to this Feb. 10, 2011, article in the Coastal Observer. I was, at that time, very removed from the organization and physically working out of town, so I was not well-tuned into the happenings at MI2020. But for some reason, I picked up a paper on Feb. 10 and could not believe what I read ... The article wrote of the board changing the group’s mission from revitalization to preservation (because there was no more revitalization work to be done); expanding its service area from the core commercial district to include all of Murrells Inlet – we do get a lot of flack from restaurants that are not part of the core district and don’t like that definition;” it reported that the board was deadlocked on choosing an executive director candidate; talked of eliminating the office; talked of financial woes shown by a 2010 operating deficit; discussion of eliminating events; needing data to make decisions.
“My heart just sank. I had no idea about the organization’s turmoil. Having slept on what I read, the next morning, I called Al Hitchcock and went over to his house to chat. After listening to Al, I offered to throw my hat in the ring to help MI2020 through these tough times. The board welcomed me back.”
Her first marching order, Sledz said, was to straighten out the organization’s finances. “Data entry had gotten very sloppy – mostly anonymous entries, charges against wrong accounts, making it very difficult to decipher what was really going on,” she said.
“There was a good bit of unnecessary spending. So priority one: we tightened up the spending in 2011 and have done a good job of holding those expenses constant over the past three years. We cleaned up the books moving forward. To this day, now, the books are squeaky clean and 100 percent accurate and understandable.”
There was discussion of eliminating the Race for the Inlet, a popular fundraiser. Within three years, net profit increased by 450 percent.
Pledges to the group have increased from $17,000 a year in 2011 to $29,000 in 2012 and 2013.
“That is a 70 percent increase,” Sledz said, “achieved solely on the basis that MI2020 started to once again focus on projects the community supported — Jetty View Walk and the watershed plan — and that the board of directors stood strongly for its mission during controversial times.”