Hartman, Leslie 2

Family: Spouse, Ben Hartman, and three children, Hill, Curry, and Spence.

Years in the Golden Isles: 25 Years living on St. Simons Island.

School: Undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in psychology and a graduate degree from the University of West Georgia, Master of Education with an emphasis in community counseling.

Occupation: Executive director of Safe Harbor Children’s Center.

A local you admire: Jack and Susan Hartman are the locals I admire the most. Their dedication, love and connection to our community is remarkable. Susan’s family owned Ward’s Drug Store in the Village on St. Simons and she grew up working at the soda fountain. Jack grew up in Brunswick where his family ran The Lafayette Grill across the street from the Oglethorpe Hotel. They live in the house Susan grew up in on East Beach. Jack was the co-chairman of Safe Harbor’s capital campaign in 2015. I enjoyed working alongside him and learned a great deal about our community.

What are some of your goals for Safe Harbor in 2021? In 2021, Safe Harbor will continue to meet the ever-changing needs of our community. Over the past eight months of 2020, we have seen tremendous difficulties in our community as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Families are experiencing heightened levels of vulnerability, from fears of illness, loss of employment, to financial challenges. For many in our community, these stressors are leading to a breakdown of the family unit often resulting in a higher incidence of child abuse, neglect and homelessness. Back in March, when the pandemic began impacting our lives, my hope was that Safe Harbor would come out of this complex time stronger than when we went into it. I can firmly say we have. I could not be more thankful or inspired by our entire professional staff. There has never been a time in our 30-year history when our employees have been stronger, braver or more committed to carrying out Safe Harbor’s mission in the most fundamental ways. Safe Harbor will be that beacon of hope in 2021.

What led you to become the executive director at Safe Harbor? I was working part-time for Safe Harbor as a therapist in 2009. After the sudden resignation of Safe Harbor’s executive director, the board chairman approached me about being the interim director to help navigate the organization through a difficult time. I had witnessed firsthand the amazing work with children in our community and wanted to help grow the organization to serve more children and families. Since 2009, Safe Harbor has expanded to seven programs and provides an array of services to the children in our community.

As a working mom, what does a typical day look like for you? Just like all working moms, our family rushes out the door first thing in the morning. My children have learned to share their “mom.” They have attended, and still do attend, school with the many other children in Brunswick who consider me their “mom” figure.

Describe a perfect Saturday for you and your family in the Golden Isles: Recently, we grabbed sandwiches from a local restaurant and went to Neptune Park. We sat among the oak trees and watched the salvage work on the Golden Ray. Our family truly enjoyed sitting and watching the children play on the playground, the fishermen cast their lines on the pier, and all the walkers and bike riders enjoying the beautiful weather and being outdoors. We talked later about how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful and amazing place.

Favorite landmark in the Golden Isles: The St. Simons Lighthouse is my favorite landmark. It is such a beacon of hope. The lighthouse has withstood treacherous storms and the test of time. For me, it is a symbol of community togetherness and celebration. I have attended weddings, concerts and parties at the lighthouse. All the events are associated with happy memories and the best of our community when it comes together to celebrate.