South Carolina First Steps announces appointments to the Board of Trustees and Early Childhood Advisory Council

Three new appointees have joined the South Carolina First Steps Board of Trustees. Senate President Harvey Peeler has appointed John Hayes to the role of “Early Childhood Educator” and Jesica Mackey to the role of “Parent of a Young Child.” Governor Henry McMaster has appointed Janie Neeley to the role of “Parent of a Young Child.” As trustees of South Carolina First Steps, all will serve concurrently as members of the Early Childhood Advisory Council, a collaborative body representing the state’s early childhood system.

A former public school educator, John Hayes has held leadership roles in early childhood education for nearly three decades. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Francis Marion University and a master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of South Carolina. For the last fifteen years, Mr. Hayes has served as director of the NAEYC-accredited Child Development Center at York Technical College in Rock Hill.

Jesica Johnson Mackey is the parent of two children, Olivia and William, and an experienced strategic communications professional. Ms. Mackey attended the University of South Carolina, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications and a Master of Public Administration. She is a graduate of the SC Economic Development Institute and Leadership Columbia, and has been honored by Columbia Business Monthly as a Best and Brightest 35 & Under. She is currently Senior Project Advisor with NP Strategy in Columbia. She was recently elected to Richland County Council District 9 and will begin her term in January.

Janie Neeley is the parent of three children. Her youngest son, Marshall (“Marsh”), is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and attends 4K preschool. She is a former South Carolina public school teacher where most of her experience involved working with struggling readers as a reading specialist and as a school district literacy coach. Janie’s combined experiences as a teacher and a parent of three children with very diverse learning needs have developed her passion for creating inclusive learning environments. Janie is a strong advocate for early intervention and disability inclusion.

In addition to these new appointments, President Peeler has reappointed current trustee Jennifer McConnell to a second term as “Child Care Provider.” Ms. McConnell is Director of Brookland Academy Child Development Center in West Columbia.

At their annual meeting on December 4, 2020, members of the board and council recognized outgoing member Julie Hussey for more than nine years of dedicated service.

For more information about the SC First Steps Board of Trustees and the SC Early Childhood Advisory Council, visit and

Topics: ECAC

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