Ben Slade headed up the St. Simons Land Trust for several years, and has now returned to its helm as the organization’s interim executive director, but it’s not the only hat he wears. Currently, Slade serves as the program chair for the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia and is co-chair of the Georgia Committee for the East Coast Greenway. He is a member of Glynn Episcopal Ministries and the Downtown Brunswick Revitalization Committee.
The Savannah native moved with his family to Brunswick in 1961, after spending his teen years in Atlanta. After graduating from Vanderbilt, Slade joined the Navy as a lieutenant, and upon his return began his career with First Federal Savings Bank of Brunswick.
Along the way, Slade served on various community boards and committees, all with an eye toward improving the quality of life for all Glynn County residents. He served as chairman of the United Way, the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce and the Brunswick-Glynn Economic Development Authority. He has been president of the former Boys and Girls Club of Glynn, now the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Georgia. Slade was also the founding president of Habitat for Humanity of Glynn and the founding chairman of the St. Simons Land Trust. He is past chairman of the Okefenokee Council of Boy Scouts of America, and has served as a trustee on the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation and the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation.
Perhaps one of the most interesting tasks Slade has had over his decades-long involvement in the community is chairing the 19-member Glynco steering committee in the mid-1980s. This is the group that was responsible for planning how to move forward with 3,000 acres no longer needed by the U.S. Navy. That parcel is now home to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Gulfstream Aviation, Stambaugh Aviation, MAP International and several other businesses.
Honors, course, have followed. Slade is a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Georgia Hall of Fame, and is a recipient of both the Alfred W. Jones Award from the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce and the Silver Beaver Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
When asked how he defines leadership, Slade provided a succinct answer.
“Having a vision and the willingness to take risks and inspire others to join you, ”
Slade has been inspired by countless people along the way.
“The incredibly talented people who were born here, or moved here and love it enough to place themselves in positions of leadership,” he said. “The talented African-American citizens who grew up here and have returned. They inspire me with the seeming lack of bitterness – something I’m not sure I could do – at what must have been a difficult time during segregation.”
Slade says he hopes young people will be inspired by seeing adults who care deeply, and are committed to a vision of excellence and constructive change.
Since taking over the reins once more as head of the land trust, Slade says a great day at work involves a simple formula.
“Hearing from a supporter of the land trust who understands and appreciates our vision, and from a staff associate who presents me with an idea that will move us closer to realization of our vision,” he said.
Highlights of his work in the community so far include the desegregation of the Brunswick Boys Club in the 1960s, and helping to build it into one of the outstanding clubs in the country; successful completion of the conversion of NAS Glynco to civilian use and leading the St. Simons Land Trust to raise more than $40 million involving over 1,500 supporters.
It seems that he has taken his favorite piece of advice to heart.
“Business and civic improvement is like a game that must be played with enthusiasm and a sense of humor,” he quoted.
Still not ready to rest on his laurels, Slade is currently helping find a new executive director for the land trust, and plans to continue working to support the renaissance of downtown Brunswick and early childhood education.
Slade also shared his favorite quote, from Christian writer C.S. Lewis.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”