Division: Public Sector
Level: Executive
JobID: 47728
South Carolina First Steps is seeking an innovative and collaborative leader for the state’s dedicated early childhood agency. The Executive Director will lead an $80 million state agency and nonprofit supported by public and private dollars, with 46 affiliated county-based nonprofits and over 300 PreK providers. The director also leads the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, ensuring coordination and alignment of public investments in early childhood.

The Executive Director of South Carolina First Steps is responsible for the overall direction and management of the agency, balancing the need for consistent external engagement with partners, members of the SC General Assembly, the Governor’s Office, other state agencies, and families served with the need for thoughtful leadership of internal staff to ensure that programs and services delivered are sustainable and impactful.

The ideal candidate will be a visionary leader whose understanding of early childhood education systems and best practices enables inspirational leadership that encourages innovation and creative problem solving amongst staff and the system partners. Political agility and prior experience liaising with lawmakers could further enable success in this position. The ideal candidate will also exhibit excellent communication skills with the ability to effectively engage partners, staff, and stakeholders with diverse experiences and backgrounds around the SC First Steps mission. Additionally, experience in both state or local government as well as within the nonprofit sector would be highly beneficial in navigating this organization’s unique structure as both a state agency and nonprofit 501c(3) organization.

Reports to: Board of Trustees
Location: Columbia, SC
Direct Reports: (7) State Director of First Steps 4K; Director of Administration; Chief Partnership Officer; Human Resources Manager; Government Affairs; Early Childhood Advisory Council Program Manager; Chief of Staff
Total Employees: 125
Budget: ~$80M

Strategic Planning & Visioning
  • Leads strategic planning and direction-setting process involving Board of Trustees, senior management, and other key stakeholders.
  • Plans, develops, and directs the vision of the agency, secures funding in support of executing this vision, and oversees the development of programs, policies and procedures required to fulfill the vision and strategy of the organization.
  • Ensures evaluation of programs on an ongoing basis and directs the strategic planning for the program to determine future objectives and policies.
  • Shares the agency’s vision with external partners and other state agencies; participates in interagency planning; pursues opportunities to create system efficiencies and cohesion.

Operational & Financial Leadership
  • Maintains responsibility for the overall management of South Carolina First Steps and the SC Early Childhood Advisory Council.
  • Reporting to and working with the Board of Trustees and management, establishes and implements goals, strategies, plans, and policies continually improving program effectiveness and efficiency and ensuring compliance with established laws, policies, and regulations.
  • Ensures evaluation of programs on an ongoing basis and directs the strategic planning for the program to determine future objectives.
  • Ensures the fiscal health of the organization through strong fiscal oversight, accountability to funders including the General Assembly and taxpayers, and the successful development and implementation of a fund development plan.
  • Leads the annual agency budget request process including establishing budget request priorities, developing associated provisos, and presenting to governor’s office and legislative committees.
  • Diversifies funding streams to include state funds, federal funds, private donations, and foundation grants.
  • Promotes the integration of services and systems, leading to measurable and greater long- term impact on children and families.
  • Pursue opportunities to extend the agency’s reach and to expand high intensity programs.

Talent & Team Development
  • Oversees the recruitment, hiring, training, and management of the staff of South Carolina First Steps and the Early Childhood Advisory Council. Ensures highly qualified, mission aligned, and motivated staff are recruited and retained.
  • Sets the organizational culture for the agency through inspirational leadership and example, ensuring a commitment to excellence, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Empowers staff to make decisions.
  • Facilitates the success of the program through supervision and guidance in planning, leadership, collaboration, and communication strategies.
  • Invests in staff by providing meaningful opportunities for professional development and training.

External Engagement & Relationship Management
  • Serves as the primary liaison to and support for the SC First Steps Board of Trustees and the SC Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC), ensuring each functions effectively and meets all legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Builds collaborative, effective relationships between and among SC First Steps and state, public, private, and other entities to ensure coordination of services to children and families, integration of systems, efficient use of funding, and highest-impact programs.
  • Represents South Carolina First Steps and the Early Childhood Advisory Council before the General Assembly and with the Governor’s Office, ensuring the fulfillment of all statutory obligations.
  • Works with the Boards of SC First Steps and the ECAC to recommend changes to relevant legislation and to promulgate regulations as appropriate.
  • Serves as the primary spokesperson for South Carolina First Steps and the SC Early Childhood Advisory Council, including in communication with the media and the public.
  • Creates greater awareness of the organization to drive increased participation in programs, increased funding and support, improved perception that leads to improved employee recruitment and retention, legislative success, and national reputation as a model program.
  • A Bachelor’s degree in education, public administration, social work, public health, management or related field and knowledge in the field of early childhood development is required for consideration.
  • Master’s degree in public administration, social work, education, management, or other related field is preferred. At least five years of increasingly responsible management experience in human service program, with comparable work experience in senior level management positions and comprehensive executive level experience preferred.
  • Ability to collaborate, co-operate, advocate, and facilitate with agencies, private providers, funders, as well as public and private organizations and entities to serve the early childhood educational needs of South Carolina’s children and families.

The minimum salary for the Executive Director is $125,183 to $194,058. A salary greater than the minimum must be approved by the Agency Head Salary Commission; candidates should feel comfortable accepting the minimum salary before pursuing the position.

Candidates are encouraged to view the full position profile by visiting: First Steps Position Profile


Interested candidates can submit a resume and cover letter through the FGP posting at https://www.fgp.com/jobs/executive-director-47728/. Candidates may contact Christin Mack, Manager of Public Sector Executive Search at FGP, at cmack@fgp.com with questions about the position.


All candidates must also complete the state application before July 17, 2024 at 5:00 PM in order to be considered. The link for the application can be found here: First Steps Executive Director – 60027931 | Job Details tab | Career Pages (governmentjobs.com)


Please note that candidates must meet all required qualifications in order to be considered.



For more information about SC First Steps, please visit https://www.scfirststeps.org/. Here you can access Annual Reports and the current Strategic Plan.


This position sits in the Columbia, SC headquarters office. Success in this position will require active engagement onsite in Columbia, SC, especially during legislative session.




Confidentiality & FOIA Requirements

South Carolina FOIA laws require the release of the finalist’s names (at least three finalists) should the agency receive a FOIA request. Confidential interest will be possible early in the process; however, candidates should be aware of the FOIA requirements as the process moves towards finalist selection.

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