Founder- Advocate-Beltway Commuter-Community Supporter-St. Simon’s Resident
Bringing your own job to the Golden Isles is possible. When the Golden Isles Development Authority (GIDA) shared their first BYOJob story, we received numerous recommendations to contact professionals who have successfully brought or built their careers here. While many discovered our community on vacation, each person’s story has been unique to how they made their way to call the Golden Isles home.
Nicole Rodgers visited the Golden Isles many years ago before making her journey from the Beltway to the Causeway. Nicole was referred to this collection by- almost everyone! In her family’s time the Golden Isles, Nicole has been active in various organizations and initiatives dedicated to making the Golden Isles even better than it is today.
Nicole and her husband are both Advocacy and Communications Professionals. She founded Capitol Hill Communications in 2014, allowing her the flexibility to spend her time between St. Simons Island Capitol Hill.
At GIDA, we were fortunate enough to speak with Nicole and learn more about her journey to call St. Simon’s home.
How did you discover the Golden Isles, Georgia?
The first time I came to the Golden Isles, I really didn’t even know where I was. I was five or six years old and my mom’s best friend at Georgetown Law
School, Liz, was about to marry Smith Bagley. We were invited down for a long weekend stay at Musgrove. I have deep memories of what a special place it was nestled deep in the marsh and the time I spent with Smith’s children who were much older than I was and therefore way cooler than my mom or her friends.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and my husband and I both were working at lobbyists for different organizations and would travel to annual conferences at Sea Island. We aren’t “Florida people” and we both just really loved the environment, atmosphere, and community in the Golden Isles. There is a special feeling that takes over when you cross the causeway onto Saint Simons Island, like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders and you are home.
We were here for one of those conferences shortly after our wedding in 2011. It was a rainy November day and we decided to spend the day with our Zillow app driving around looking at real estate. We weren’t particularly in the market for a second home, but we knew if we ever decided to buy one, it would be on Saint Simons. Within a few short months, we owned a home in the Island Club.
It sounds like it was meant to be! When did you finally decide to make a move to SSI? Was there an “ah-a” moment?
Starting almost immediately after we bought our first house here, we began dreaming of the idea of moving our primary residence to Saint Simons. That said, we both had demanding jobs that made sneaking away for weekends as good as it got for the first few years. However, after having our first child, I decided to hang my own shingle and begin working for myself. All of a sudden, the option of living in Saint Simons became much more realistic. I’m overly analytical when it comes to decisions like these, so I started crunching some numbers. Over the almost four years we had owned our house in SSI, we were averaging 27 weekends a year in SSI, ten in DC, and the rest anywhere else we could go. We were also planning on a second child and DC had just been rated the most expensive city in the country to raise children. I had full flexibility to work and raise our kids anywhere. Rick still needed to be in DC from Monday through Friday. We were fortunate enough to have the ability to test the idea of commuter life and marriage before committing to it fully. We moved here in October 2015 with the idea that we would commit through December and then decide. We never looked back!
You and your family- husband, two children, and four dogs split your time between SSI and an office in DC. I learned that you discovered the cost of living, even including frequent travel to DC, made more sense here. Can you share how you make that work for your family?
Absolutely. As I mentioned, we crunched a lot of numbers before we dipped our toe in the water of moving here. DC had dramatically jumped in the cost of living, especially as it pertained to raising children. One example of the calculations we looked at in terms of cost-benefit was education. I grew up in DC private schools so I knew if we continued to live in that area, we would have surely had that expense for two children starting in preschool. The cost of even the most expensive education option in the area was one-third of that of the likely choices we would have made in DC, and the public schools are outstanding. We fully intend to avail ourselves of those schools for at least a portion of our children’s education.
Finance was only a portion of the calculation that drove us to make the move. The main driver of our decision was the quality of life over quantity of life. We wanted to enjoy where we live, to spend more quality time with our children, to offer them a less frenetic childhood experience, and to feel safer and more grounded.
A few years after we moved here, my husband decided to retire from his corporate job and join me in the consulting world. We have, and continue to grow our advocacy firm, Capitol Hill Communications, and adapted our schedule accordingly. When we moved here, Rick commuted weekly and I was a “single mom” Monday to Friday and we really focused on making the most of our weekends. Now we tag-team our commuting. When COVID isn’t keeping us all home-bound, one of us is in DC pretty much every week that Congress is in session and both of us are in DC together once every six weeks or so.
Our saving grace in managing this unconventional work-life balance is the community of support we have been able to build here. We had family follow us here once they saw the quality of life. We have built an amazing network of friends, many of whom have similar BYOJ (bring your own job) traveling jobs, and we work together to support each other and help with the kids. Lastly, we were blessed to find the most amazing part-time nanny who loves the kids so much and fell right into that third parent role seamlessly.
Honestly, I cannot say enough about the community of people in Saint Simons. I have yet to meet a person I don’t think would drop everything to help a neighbor in need. When my husband’s father fell and suffered a stroke during the COVID shut down and it was clear he wouldn’t recover, we had almost no time to figure out how to safely get to him and leave two kids and four dogs at home in the middle of quarantine. Within minutes my friends had a plan in place for us of how they would tag-team with our nanny, who was still teaching second grade remotely during the day, to care for our children and a plan for who would stay at our house to care for the dogs at night. When we returned after Pepper passed away, our house had been completely cleaned and organized, our refrigerator was stocked and most importantly our children and our dogs were happy, healthy, and safe. I had not had to worry about any of the logistics back home while managing the family crisis in Reston.
We know that traffic is not a problem here, but have you found that the available flights meet your business’s needs?
One of the reasons we picked Saint Simons was the ease of travel to Washington, DC. When we moved here we had 16 non-stops per day between JAX and DC airports. Sadly we lost the Jet Blue flights, but we’ve picked up more Delta flights out of Brunswick through Atlanta, which makes that trip almost as easy as the non-stops. I tell people all the time, there are very few places in the world you cannot get to relatively easily from Saint Simons. From Brunswick through Atlanta, you can pretty much go anywhere. It takes less time for us to get from Saint Simons to the Jacksonville or Savannah airports than it would take to go from downtown DC to Dulles or BWI. I’d love a non-stop from Brunswick to DCA, but we have great options already.
Your clients, and stakeholders, have a presence in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region and on the Hill. How do you manage networking, and maintaining those critical relationships when you are on SSI?
Members of Congress and their staffs understand the weekly commute concept because so many of them commute to their home districts every week too. They also understand the notion of quality of life outside “the Beltway.” It also helps that Sea Island and Saint Simons are frequent destinations for Congressional events, conferences, etc. so many of our stakeholders are in this community on a regular basis. Our clients are all over the country so most of our interactions with them can be via phone and email. That said, we make sure we are in DC whenever Congress is there. When they aren’t, technology is a wonderful thing. My only wish for Saint Simons would be fiber-optic wifi!
Not a surprise, but you have some really great connections to the Golden Isles community! What are some of the organizations you support in the Golden Isles?
When we moved here, Rick was the one who spent most of the time in DC and I felt it was important to immerse myself in the community and build a network and identity locally. One of my closest friends, who moved here around the same time we did, encouraged me to join Junior League as a way to get to know both like-minded women and more about our community. At the time we were a satellite chapter of the Junior League of Savannah with a handful of local members. In Junior League, I found amazing friends, a deeper understanding of the breadth of need that exists in our larger community especially among women and children, a vision of how to be a part of the solution, and an opportunity to build a better Junior League for our members. For the past two years, I have been president of the new Junior League of the Golden Isles, now 200+ women strong!
How have you found the groups you are active in beneficial to you professionally, or otherwise?
Through relationships developed in Junior League, I have gotten involved in a variety of other non-profit endeavors that seek to improve the quality of life and access to education and opportunity for all children in our community. I serve as chair of the Early Literacy Academy free preschool run through the Boys and Girls Club and as president of KidsPort, the organization seeking to build an interactive children’s museum in downtown Brunswick.
I also got involved in local community advocacy through appointments such as the Long Term Planning Commission and Forward Brunswick to build relationships with the local government entities, local community activists, and local industry. I’ve done this because I care about where we live and I want to protect and improve the place where my kids are growing up.
These efforts were not sought out with professional advancement as a goal. I chose to get involved because I needed to build my personal community here in Saint Simons and because I wanted to immerse myself in the larger community that I now called home. That said, this is a community rich with smart, talented, and connected people from all facets of life, and, as I mentioned, this community likes to help its own. So we have definitely benefitted from relationships we have built through the various outside organizations we have committed ourselves to.
Since you mentioned your four dogs in your bio, I know they must be dear to your family. How friendly have you found the island to be for your four dogs? Do they have a favorite place to play?
Saint Simons is extremely dog friendly. Our pups are homebodies, but they do love 36th Street beach! We love the number of outdoor dining options that are pet-friendly (though we never would dare bring all four at once!) and we love walking and running them around our neighborhood.
You have already shared so much for our audience to consider, but is there any other advice that would you give families considering relocating to the Golden Isles?
If you are considering it, do it! I promise you won’t regret it. If you are able to test the waters like we did, it definitely helps ease the transition. Just know that it takes a little bit for the “permanent vacation” feeling to wear off and that “real life” feeling to settle in. Also, the best piece of feedback I got when we moved here, was that it can take about a year to find your “community.” Give SSI and yourself time to get connected, throw yourself into a variety of activities, organizations, and endeavors that interest you, and magically within that first year, you will find your niche. The other advice I would give is to explore all of Glynn County and the surrounding region. Don’t let the causeway be a boundary. There are some amazing things happening in downtown Brunswick and throughout the county. There’s such diversity of people, ideas, industry, innovation, entrepreneurship, history, culture, and service that you stand to miss out on if you don’t explore everything from exit 29 on up to Darien and from our beaches to the wide-open spaces on the other side of I-95. ▪
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