When she first arrived on the job, Greenwood’s city manager and Lander University alumna Julie Wilkie ’03 said that what she loved most about Greenwood is the camaraderie between the city, the county, local schools, residents, nonprofits and small businesses. After her first three years in the role, she still feels that way.
“You just don’t see that level of collaboration in all communities,” said Wilkie. “The citizens of Greenwood—the citizens of Greenwood County—are fortunate to have that collaboration.” Wilkie recognizes the challenges the City of Greenwood faces going forward, but she believes “we are better positioned to overcome those challenges when we work together rather than working separate from one another.”
One of the biggest of those challenges for Wilkie was navigating the city through the COVID-19 pandemic. She had only been in her role as city manager for a little over a year when the pandemic struck in March of 2020, but she insisted that it was the teamwork of city council, administration and staff that helped guide the city through those harrowing months.
“We are all essential personnel,” she said. “If your house catches on fire, you need the firefighters to work. But we also needed our shop staff to repair our vehicles so we could continue to make those emergency responses.” There were gaps that needed to be filled along the way, but what inspired Wilkie through the course of the pandemic was the devotion of city staff to continuing on with important business, ensuring that Greenwood’s residents still had access to essential services throughout the pandemic, with minimal hiccups along the way.
Wilkie says an important piece of the collaboration puzzle that makes Greenwood special is the city’s connection with its local University. She recognizes that Lander and Greenwood have prime opportunities to connect, and to engage students with the city’s Uptown—located just half a mile from Lander’s campus. This spring, the city partnered with Lander’s Division of Student Affairs to host more student events in Uptown, while Greenwood’s entire fleet of utility vehicles now proudly display decals which read “Home of the Lander Bearcats.”
More recently, the city and the University have joined the International Town and Gown Association through Clemson University, a nonprofit that assists college campuses and surrounding communities in their efforts to be better partners through annual conferences and other professional development opportunities for employees.
Not lost on Wilkie is her own special relationship to Lander University as an alumna. She’s holds a B.S. in Political Science, Public Administration Emphasis, and returns to campus regularly to speak to classes about her day-to-day life as a public servant. “The students enjoy getting to see the real world of local politics from someone active in the field,” said Dr. Matt Malone, assistant professor of political science. “Her willingness to give back to Lander students will hopefully help cultivate the next generation of local civic leaders.”
Wilkie says that relationship with Lander gives her insight on the vital role that the University plays in the community’s development—a role which may be lost on a city manager who received a degree elsewhere. “Some people might feel the pressure, serving in the same community as your alma mater,” she said, “but I think that makes me all the more recognize how much we need to engage each other.”
When asked what she enjoys the most about being Greenwood’s city manager, Wilkie said it was “being a doer.” She doesn’t see herself as the “idea person,” but someone who can put an idea into action. As city manager, she enjoys listening to feedback from City Council, from the University, from nonprofits and from local residents, hearing what their ideas are for their community, and making those ideas happen.
“The idea can come from a community member, or a council member, or a member of our staff,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is taking that idea to the next level.”Click here to learn more about programs offered by Lander’s Department of Government, Criminology, and Sociology.