Leadership Spotlight: A Conversation about Life and Business in the Golden Isles with Ben Hartman

Published by Georgia Trend in its June 2021 issue

Tell us a little about yourself.

After growing up in Roswell and attending Furman University and the University of Georgia School of Law, I moved to the Golden Isles with my wife, Leslie. My parents and grandparents were from here. The Lafayette Grill in Brunswick and Ward’s Drug Store on St. Simons were family businesses.

Leslie is the executive director for Safe Harbor Children’s Center and I am a partner at HunterMaclean’s St. Simons office, where I focus on estates & trusts and corporate law. Practicing law provides me the opportunity to build relationships and help individuals and families achieve their goals. It is a gift to work with multiple generations, and many of my clients are successful entrepreneurs with great stories.

The community faced multiple challenges during your term as Chairman of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce.

Definitely. Beyond the pandemic, we had other crises: a ship in our harbor and the tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The day the video went viral, faith and business leaders of all races gathered in my office. That group worked together and used their relationships to calm the community and keep protests peaceful. Those collective efforts gained positive outcomes. Georgia passed a Hate Crime Bill championed by Don Hogan, the Citizen’s Arrest Law has been repealed, and a racially and denominationally diverse group of pastors holds regular meetings to collaborate on community issues. Attorney General Chris Carr has been a strong and consistent presence in the efforts to see that justice is served. We are committed to not letting another tragedy occur.

What accomplishments from 2020 make you most proud?

We launched the Chamber’s Foundation, with a focus to increase minority participation in Leadership Glynn. The business community exceeded our fundraising goal, providing overwhelming support for the next generation of minority leadership.

The Chamber and the College of Coastal Georgia partnered to create Unified Breakfasts for the elected leaders of the City of Brunswick and Glynn County. Our officials have embraced the opportunity to dialogue and build relationships. Breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration ensures that the Golden Isles’ best days are still ahead.

Chamber members increased their support during 2020, affirming the value of our programming and work. I am proud that the Chamber was a source for information relating to PPP, grants, regulations, and ways to support local business.

What are the best things about living and working in the Golden Isles?

The Golden Isles offers a small town feel with the amenities and business sophistication of a larger city. Whether at first-class restaurants, on the golf course, or at their child’s baseball game under the oaks at Mallery Park, colleagues, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders are finding that they can do business from anywhere—and they are choosing to do business here.

During the last year, we witnessed the dedication of teachers and school staff who were committed to providing in-person school, the sacrifice of healthcare and frontline workers, and the adaptability of the hospitality industry, as much of the world escaped to the Golden Isles. We have beautiful beaches, idyllic tidal marshes, miles of scenic bike paths, and some of the world’s best golf courses, but it is the people that make the Golden Isles a truly special place to live, work, and play.