Lowcountry Local First (LLF), a nonprofit centered around creating an economy anchored in local business, named Jacquie Berger as its new executive director, effective Monday after the departure of founding executive director Jamee Haley at the end of 2020.
Berger joins LLF after spending four years as development director at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry in Charleston.
After her first day on the job, City Paper sat down to have a short conversation about where she wants to see the group headed in the future and what sort of role LLF plays in the Charleston community.
CP: What is is about Charleston that’s so conducive to the need and success of an organization like LLF?
JB: I feel like people just fall in love with Charleston, and that’s why it’s grown so much. It just has this rich character, and those are the things we can sort of build on and build up. People are really looking for the things that make Charleston special, whether it’s the food we eat, the things we buy to decorate our homes or the businesses that are taking care of us. All of those things that make Charleston special are what attracts people and here and makes them want to stay.
CP: Adding to that very long list of reasons people stay in Charleston once they get here. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard of quick trips and vacations turning into full-on transplants.
JB: The longer you live here, the more incredible discoveries you make — the wonderful things that make the Lowcountry unique and special. All these treasures just bubble up to you the longer you live here. And I sort of have the keys to that kingdom now, and I want to do more to help people discover all the hidden wonders this community has to offer.
CP: You came here from the Northeast, what brought you here?
JB: I don’t really have a good story for that. I just wanted a place that was more hospitable, a little warmer. But as for finding a reason to stay, well this is a pretty good one.
CP: What are some of your short and long-term plans for LLF?
JB: One of the things I love about LLF is its ability to evolve. This organization, historically, has identified the emerging needs of the community and moved in to create wonderful resources, tools and programs. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to hold on to those — it can move on. It functions as a catalyst, a trainer, a network connector. That shift in focus and investment is awesome, and short-term, that is very needed right now in this community, but I really want to see what the emerging needs of the community are going to be moving forward.
CP: It’s nice to know that whatever the future brings, your team is able to stay flexible and able to meet those needs, but surely you have some idea of a plan?
JB: We are getting into a strategic planning process; I’m hearing a lot from the staff and other members. I haven’t come in with a lot of those preconceived notions, I’m still getting to know the business community here — the entrepreneurs and business owners — listening to them and finding out from them where their needs are and where we need to go to meet those needs.
After a year of being in COVID, helping the community cope with and address all the things that have been needed, we are finally seeing that shift into the rearview mirror. It just feels so exciting because I feel like, on a personal and professional level, we are all feeling so disconnected and are all looking for ways to get reconnected. That’s our first step.