Rewarding careers are always within reach with a degree from Lander University. That reach now includes the City of Greenwood's top executive post.
Last December, Julie Wilkie '03 was named city manager for Greenwood, S.C. - a place that both she and Lander University are proud to call their home. Born and raised in Greenwood, she graduated from Ninety Six High School in 1999 before earning a degree in political science from Lander. After graduation, Wilkie moved to Columbia to earn her master's in public administration from the University of South Carolina in 2005.
Yet, her aspiration to serve her hometown ultimately drove Wilkie and her family back to Greenwood. In 2009, she accepted the position as the assistant city manager and is often commended for her role in organizing the annual South Carolina Festival of Discovery, as well as for her assistance in the ongoing beautification efforts in Greenwood's Uptown district.
Her high level of care and devotion to Greenwood is what ultimately led the mayor and city council to pick Wilkie as the replacement for outgoing City Manager Charlie Barrineau, who resigned in November to take a job with the South Carolina Municipal Association. "In government, it is always good to look at all options, but needless to say, we all kept coming back to Julie," said Greenwood Mayor Brandon Smith. "All of her experience, knowing the nuances of Greenwood County as a native, and nine years as Charlie's assistant prepared her for the job."
As both a Greenwood native and Lander alumna, Wilkie believes her unique perspective will help nurture the strong relationship between the city and the university. "It's a great feeling to be able to make a difference in the community where you grew up," she said. "As city manager, I want to be able to foster a sense of connectivity and engagement between Uptown Greenwood and Lander."
Mayor Smith admitted that he relies on Wilkie's connection with Lander when considering future partnerships aimed at benefiting both Lander students and Greenwood citizens alike. "It is the vision of the city to continue to retain Lander graduates to help grow Greenwood stronger," Smith said. "I hope Julie is an inspiring example to Lander's female students, as well as students looking to go into public administration."
It's this sense of shared vision and camaraderie between local government, the university, businesses and non-profits that Wilkie believes sets Greenwood apart from other municipalities in South Carolina. "There is a mentality of kinship and cooperation that exists in Greenwood that just doesn't exist in other places," she said. "I'm sure there are communities that think they have it, but one trip to Greenwood would probably change their minds."
Wilkie is one of several successful public administration professionals who started their journey with Lander's Department of Government, Criminology and Sociology. Beth Eavenson '10 works as a regional representative with the state of Georgia's Department of Community Affairs; and Blake Stone '12 serves as the city manager in Abbeville, South Carolina. "We are very proud of our new city manager, Julie Wilkie," said Dr. Lucas McMillan, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. "She is another great example of a Lander alumna who is now furthering her career as a public service professional."
In fact, Wilkie attributes getting her "spark" for public administration from members of Lander's faculty. Former Greenwood County Manager Jim Kier, who also taught as an adjunct professor at Lander, coordinated an internship for Wilkie with his office; and it was Dr. Mike Avey who pulled her aside before graduation to ask her to consider going into public administration. "I credit Lander and the opportunities I was afforded there for where I am today," she said. "My professors gave me the tools I needed to guide my future."
This story is featured in the Spring 2019 edition of Lander Magazine. Read more at www.lander.edu/magazine.