It’s a rare ability to bring people together and create meaningful connections. And it’s a skill that Mount Pleasant resident Guang Ming (G.M.) Whitley possesses in abundance. She uses this strength in all areas of her life — as a mother of four, as a local elected official, as a published author — to build relationships and make the world around her a better place.
Originally from California, G.M. earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Southern California and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School. It was there that she met her husband, Joel, also a fellow attorney. She taught at the University of Chicago and practiced intellectual property law in Los Angeles. She then retired from active practice to serve as “Chief Operating Officer of the Whitley Household.” With her young daughter, and a boy on the way, the family moved from L.A. to Alaska. While there, she gave birth to a boy, and two years later, she had twin boys. In 2015, the family of six relocated to South Carolina. All four kids — Charlotte, 10; Luke, 8; and twins William and Niels, 6 — attend Mount Pleasant Academy.
The influence of Girls State
G.M. is president of the Girls State Alumnae Foundation and attended California Girls State in 1996, where she was elected governor. Sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary, Girls State is a unique government-in-action learning program in which young women become knowledgeable stewards of freedom, democracy, and patriotic citizens. She has volunteered with the Girls State program in a variety of capacities since 2000, and today she’s in charge of fundraising, creating positions for paid interns, and managing a California networking group.
After attending the annual event this summer, G.M. started a new national level network that grew to almost 4,000 members in two weeks, thanks to her efforts to connect past participants online and via social media. She also plans to get involved closer to home with Palmetto Girls State in South Carolina.
The lessons G.M. learned at Girls State she’s been able to apply to her role on town council, and they are good guidelines for life in general:
Get It Done
Get It Right
Make It Fun
Becoming an elected official
In November 2017, G.M. was elected to serve as a council member for the Town of Mount Pleasant. She was one of nine candidates vying for four council positions in a closely watched local election.
Her decision to run for town council was based largely in part on her experience with Girls State. “I had been preaching civic engagement for a while, and now it was time to talk the talk and walk the walk,” she recalled.
With all four kids in school for the first time, it seemed like perfect timing.
She is grateful for the power of moms who helped her get elected. “I appreciate their votes of confidence,” she said.
Since being sworn eight months ago, G.M. has implemented a weekly Toddler Time through the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department, and helped secure funds for a study about the arts in town. “The study will focus on ‘What do we need to do to support the arts in Mount Pleasant?’” she said, and emphasized the importance of creating a local community arts space.
Making the most of her time
As if raising four kids and serving on town council wasn’t enough, G.M. stays busy with professional projects and involvement in the community.
She loves to sing, and, along with her husband, is a member of the choir at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, where she is also a deacon. She directs the choir at Girls State each year, and also serves as a judge for the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) — the original “Pitch Perfect” — in Athens, Georgia.
G.M. is also an active member of Ideas into Action, a community organization that serves as an educational platform for nonprofits in the Lowcountry, and she’s even a published author of several science fiction novels.
Words to live by
“You can have it all, but not at the same time.”
G.M. said this quote has always resonated with her. There are segments to everyone’s life, and for G.M., she enjoys her focus as a stay-at-home mom, and right now, raising her kids comes first. “Having the part-time position on town council is the perfect role that allows me to serve the community and still be there for my family,” she said.
With all of these activities and responsibilities, how does she stay organized? G.M. said she tries to prioritize at the beginning of the week and writes a list on index cards of what she needs to accomplish. “Some days are more productive than others,” she admits with laugh, “but it feels good crossing things off the list.”
The best advice she has for other busy moms includes:
- Knowing when to say no (in terms of accommodating others and making the most of your time), and
- The importance of self-care. “This is something I still struggle with, but I’ve learned that I need to take the time to take care of myself to be the best for my family,” she said.
I’ve had the privilege to get to know G.M. over the past three years through the book club she started — Wine, Women and Words — just another example of how she brings people together. Our book club meets once a month at her house in the Old Village, and it’s always a great mix of interesting, inspiring, intelligent women (who all happen to be moms).
Even though we are very different — she told me once that in high school she made a list of goals for her life, and the first one was to become president of the United States. I told her that I made a similar list, but my number one goal was to someday own a Volkswagen van — I value our friendship because she is sincere and down to earth. I am continually in awe of all that she accomplishes. Seriously, I don’t know how she gets it all done. But she is hard working and passionate and brilliant, so she makes it look almost effortless.
Her devotion to her family, her desire to improve her surroundings and give back to her community, her ability to bring people together, her sense of humor and intrinsic kindness — these are just some of the reasons why G.M. Whitley is a Mom to See in the 843.