County administrator Jacobs resigns under pressure

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Council intended to fire her, revisits mask ordinance

By Lolita Huckaby

BEAUFORT – Ashley Jacobs, Beaufort County’s first female Administrator handed in her resignation letter Monday night, effective immediately.

County Councilman Mike Covert of Hilton Head, who is not seeking re-election, told reporters last week after a closed-door session that the majority of council members were prepared to vote at Monday’s special meeting to terminate Jacobs. She beat them to the punch and quit.

Jacobs, who began work with the county in April, 2019, was not present for the online meeting. Contacted by phone, Jacobs declined to comment. She did, however, release a letter later in the evening thanking her employees and supporters.

“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the Beaufort County Administrator. It was an honor and a privilege to serve and to lead,” Jacobs wrote. “I would like to thank my staff for their incredible dedication to serving others and making this a legendary place to live, work, and do business. They are second to none and I leave this organization in their very capable hands.

“I love my employees, I love my fire departments, and I love this community. There is no end to my gratitude for all those who helped me work toward my goal of a more responsible and responsive local government.”

Planning Director Eric Greenway was named to serve as interim until a job search can be conducted.

The vote to accept her resignation was 8-1-2 with Covert and Chris Hervochon abstaining and York Glover, opposed.

Sources say, prior to her resignation, council members Stu Rodman, Joe Passiment, Paul Sommerville, Mark Lawson, Alice Howard and Lawrence McElynn were in favor of terminating Jacobs.

Bluffton’s Heather Bragg organized a group – Let Her Work SC – that lobbied the council to keep Jacobs, emailing members and collecting several hundred signatures on a petition.

“We were lucky to have Ashley Jacobs – the first woman administrator for the county – for as long as we did,” Bragg wrote on the group’s Facebook page after Jacobs’ resignation. “She held the entire council accountable, built in efficiency measures in spending and got rid of employees who were woefully unqualified. That’s a recipe for disaster for a council that likes to operate in the shadows. I wish Ashley Jacobs the best of luck.”

Mask ordinance is back

The council members spent the next two hours debating the return of the mask ordinance which a two-thirds majority had voted against two weeks ago.

With more than 1,000 Facebook comments on the issue, the council voted to introduce a new “emergency” mask ordinance which has an indefinite ending date.

The city of Beaufort voted to extend their mask ordinance until Dec. 11; Bluffton, Dec. 13; and Port Royal, Nov. 11. The county’s original mask ordinance was slated to end this week, Oct. 23.

Mike McCombs contributed to this story.

Ashley Jacobs’ letter to Beaufort County

Ashley Jacobs, the first female Beaufort County Administrator, released the following letter to area media following her resignation Monday evening, Oct. 19:

As the result of an agreement that’s been reached with Beaufort County Council, I have submitted my resignation.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the Beaufort County Administrator. It was an honor and a privilege to serve and to lead.

I would like to thank my staff for their incredible dedication to serving others and making this a legendary place to live, work, and do business. They are second to none, and I leave this organization in their very capable hands.

I love my employees, I love my fire departments, and I love this community. There is no end to my gratitude for all those who helped me work toward my goal of a more responsible and responsive local government.

I’m particularly proud of the following accomplishments achieved in a short amount of time:

Improved overall financial efficiency. Created a line item budget for the first time in years, and identified more than $1 million that was being allocated without purpose and without accountability.

Re-instituted paid sick leave for County employees and added three holidays to bring Beaufort County in line with the number of holidays that other counties enjoy. Also developed a paid parental leave program for both men and women that will take effect in January 2021.

Established fair pay for the special needs adults who for years had been cleaning County buildings for less than minimum wage.

Initiated a compensation study that sets salaries to ensure fair and equal pay for improved recruitment and retention of qualified staff.

Initiated a facility study to examine how more than 100 County-owned buildings can be more energy efficient, cost efficient and workflow efficient, and create a Facilities Master Plan.

Revived the projects under the delayed Penny Sales Tax Referendum projects.

Protected our County’s expensive assets, which included installing GPS devices to equipment.

Managed the County through an unprecedented global pandemic.

Formed a strong leadership team with highly qualified and experienced people who are invaluable to the Beaufort County community.

Beaufort County is special, it is exceptional in every way, and I have been very lucky to be part of it.

Ashley Jacobs