Our Team

Georgia Mjartan

Executive Director

Georgia is the Executive Director of South Carolina First Steps. Prior to leading South Carolina First Steps, Georgia served for 12 years as the Executive Director of Our House, a nationally-recognized social services agency for homeless and near-homeless families and individuals in Arkansas.

Georgia Mjartan is the Executive Director of South Carolina First Steps, a state agency and nonprofit committed to ensuring that all of South Carolina’s children are prepared for success in school. As the leader of the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council, Georgia Mjartan is linking public, private and nonprofit systems to ensure whole families are supported in their efforts to become successful in school, work and life. As a significant funder in South Carolina, First Steps provides over $17 million in grants annually to a network of 46 nonprofit affiliates, one in each county, which provide parenting support, increase access to high-quality child care and offer a variety of other evidence-based programs. Georgia also oversees First Steps 4K, an innovative, publicly-funded pre-K programs which allows 3000 children annually to participate in free, high-quality, full-day, 4-year old kindergarten in private, nonprofit and faith-based centers. 

Georgia is a graduate of the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program.  She was one of twelve Americans awarded the George Mitchell Scholarship for graduate study on the island of Ireland. As a Mitchell Scholar, she completed a Master of Science in Public Affairs and Political Communications at the University of Ulster (UK).  Georgia holds undergraduate degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Arkansas in Little Rock. 

Georgia’s accomplishments have been recognized extensively.  Southern Living named Mjartan one of the Southerners of the Year and Arkansas Business recognized her as the Nonprofit Executive of the Year.  Her work has been featured on NBC News, USA Today, and PBS.  

Georgia is an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow and a Commissioner for the Columbia Housing Authority, a position appointed by the Columbia City Council. Through a gubernatorial appointment, she served as an inaugural member of the state’s Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee.  Georgia has served on numerous nonprofit boards including the founding boards of City Year Little Rock and Harmony Health Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured.

For more than a decade, Mjartan was Executive Director of Our House, a nationally-recognized social services agency in Arkansas that successfully moves homeless and near-homeless families and individuals out of extreme poverty by taking a two-generation approach. Georgia was also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, her alma mater, where she taught nonprofit management for five years. Prior to that, she worked as a consultant on behalf of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Mid-South Delta LISC, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.

Georgia is married to Dominik Mjartan, who is the President and CEO of Optus Bank. They are foster, adoptive and birth parents, and together they have three young children.

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Karen Oliver

Program Manager

Karen Oliver manages the Council’s grant-funded activities, provide information about the early childhood state system to policymakers and leaders, and facilitates and monitors progress toward state early childhood system goals.

Oliver brings more than 20 years of experience working with human service organizations. She was most recently the Senior Director of Community Resources at the United Way of the Midlands, where she directed capacity building work through community collaborations, volunteer engagement, UWM grant making and evaluation. Oliver is a member of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Partnership. Her volunteer service includes six years as a Commissioner on the South Carolina Commission on National and Community Service where she chaired the Grants Committee and, more recently, service on the 2020 Columbia Counts Census Committee. Oliver has a Master of Social Work from University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Arts from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

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Laura Baker

Communications Coordinator

Laura Baker supports the Early Childhood Advisory Council’s communications and public affairs needs to help fulfill its legislatively-mandated responsibilities including serving as the coordinator, connector and convener of early childhood stakeholders across agencies, levels of government, nonprofits and the private sector.

She has been an advocate for young children throughout her career as a producer of a children’s show at WLTX TV, in the Communications departments at Richland School District Two and EdVenture Children’s Museum, and as a teacher at Spring Valley Baptist Preschool. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina and is a graduate of Leadership Columbia and Richland Two’s Leading Up Academy. Laura is the mother of three and has received accolades for her design and website work.

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Rachal Hatton-Moore

Two-Generation Coordinator

Rachal Hatton-Moore became the inaugural Two-Generation Coordinator for the Early Childhood Advisory Council in December 2020 with an extensive background in community health promotion and program management.

She serves as the first state-level lead for South Carolina in the Two-Generation role by coordinating cross-agency work, system-wide adoption of policies, programs and approaches that benefit whole families, specifically young children and the adults in their lives. Rachal comes from the SC Respite Coalition where she served as the executive director. She is a licensed Master Social Worker and takes a holistic family approach to policy and program development.

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