Local Leaders | Matt Mardell
by The Press and Standard | July 27, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: July 27, 2018 at 11:58 am
Matt Mardell, 35, was named director of the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen last year. He moved into the new post after spending time as Colleton Commercial Kitchen manager.
He loves that the position gives him a platform to make a difference. “There are multiple things, but mainly they all center around the fact that I help people. Whether I give a talk at a school about the value of supporting the grow local, buy local, eat local movement, coming up with new ideas for exhibits in the museum to entice more visitors, or helping a food business start-up get permitted and running,” he said.
“On the larger scale, I love throwing around ideas for improving downtown and the wider Colleton County with other staff members whether in my department or another county department or over in the city offices,” he said.
Mardell envisions changes in Walterboro and Colleton County are on the horizon.
All the work going on right now — the Capital Projects Sales Tax projects and the development of the city’s Discovery Center — Mardell said “are great. We are going to reap so many benefits from these as a community.”
But, he adds, there is still work to be done. “I want to see some of these vacant buildings downtown get a new lease on life. Assistant City Manager Hank Amundson and I talk about these things all the time. We have a great downtown — we just need to add a couple of points of interest in the form of public spaces that have a multitude of uses for a variety of our citizens.”
Because of his job at the commercial kitchen and farmers market, Mardell said, “I’d like to see more young farmers in Colleton. We have a great market and commercial kitchen that farmers can capitalize on for value-added production. This is the foundation of a lot of things and as we see more and more of these farmers retire, now we are seeing gaps appear in our farmers market that we worked so hard to establish here.
Hardworking and congenial are the two adjectives his wife Holly uses to describe him. He concurs. “I think more often than not, if something can be done, I will figure out the way to do it. I think that’s how I’ve had a lot of success in my current role — just by helping people out and always remaining approachable. How can you not want to work hard and be happy when living in a place like Colleton?”
Mardell, while looking to improve the community, doesn’t seek to change the personality of the city he became part of nine years ago.
“Living in the Lowcountry is about being able to slow down and actually take in the world around you. The pace, people, cultures, landscapes, food and drink, life, diversity … It’s all right here on our front porch. The people in Colleton are a treasure and a joy to talk to. We always have time for each other, even if it is just a quick hello — I have traveled a lot in the world and can tell you there are not many places that can beat Walterboro in that sense. It’s one big family of people who share more in common than we know. That’s what it’s all about.”
It builds, Mardell said, a sense of community. “A sense of community is simply about pride. With pride in where you live, you have a community and as a result, you then begin to contribute more to that community. Mardell is involved in a lot of state organizations and works and plays with a number of local groups.
One of his favorites is Friends of Colleton County Animal Shelter. “We always ask for donations to the animal shelter in lieu of gifts for my son’s birthday every year. The stray animal situation here is awful for us and the animals. FOCCAS and its volunteers, as well as Colleton County Animal and Environmental Control and the local vets, are doing incredible work.”
Matt and Holly’s four-year old son Towns sees his dad joining the ranks of fathers volunteering their time and energy. His stepdaughter, Maddie Lucas, 22, rounds out the Mardell family.
Mardell previously coached rugby in Charleston and soccer with Colleton County High School and Walterboro Soccer Club. “I know I’m about to invest some years into these programs as Towns is now old enough to play.”
“Soccer is one of my favorite sports,” the English-born transplant said. “It’s great for teaching kids communication, keeping them active and fit, and all these skills translate into life lessons.”
“We have so many causes here to work for — why not donate your time to one and make the sense of community even greater?”