CHARLESTON -- The commission working to preserve the culture of slave descendants on the Sea Islands in four southeastern states is looking for its first executive director.
Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor commissioner Emory Campbell of Hilton Head Island is excited to be at this point in the group's development and wants to find someone progressive and enthusiastic for the position.
"It should be someone with a passion for preserving Gullah culture, a person who believes as we do that this is a very important part of our nation's culture," he said.
The commission announced in May that it would be seeking an executive director and this week formally opened a national search, working with Millbrooke Human Resource Consulting to fill the position.
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"A great deal of work was accomplished, and we are ready to find the right person to run the day-to-day operation," Althea Sumpter, the vice chairwoman of the commission who is heading the search committee, said in a statement. "The success of the Gullah Geechee Corridor will be partly dependent on the commission finding the right candidate for this position."
The qualifications for the executive director include, among other things, knowledge of the Gullah Geechee culture and experience in fundraising and strategic planning.
A 272-page management plan for the corridor, which includes parts of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, was more than a dozen years in the making and received final approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior in May.
The culture is known as Gullah in the Carolinas and Geechee in Georgia and Florida. The corridor reaches along the coast from Jacksonville, N.C., to just south of Jacksonville, Fla.
The management plan focuses on educating people about the culture, documenting sites important to it and developing economic opportunities for those who live there.
The executive director will be required to help oversee the implementation of the management plan. The last day to apply is Aug. 29.
Attempts Monday to reach Gullah Geeche Corridor Commission chairman Ron Daise, a Beaufort County resident, were unsuccessful.
Campbell said he hopes a director can be in place by early 2014. The search begins just as the Penn Center -- a St. Helena Island-based organization that traces its roots to a school for freed slaves -- ended its search for an executive director by hiring Michael Campi in June.
Campbell, a former Penn Center executive director, says that organization will be important in helping to establish the corridor in Beaufort County.
"His administration is going to work hand-in-hand with ours," Campbell said.
The effort to preserve the corridor began in 2000 when U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn asked for a study of Gullah resources. Congress approved the corridor in 2006.
Earlier this year, the commission opened its own office in Charleston.
The Associated Press and staff reporter Erin Moody contributed to this report. Follow Moody on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.