Longtime SEWE Executive Director, John Powell, will step into a new role as president and CEO of the nonprofit wildlife art and sporting event on July 1.
SEWE is proud to announce our Board of Directors has appointed John Powell, current Executive Director, as the new SEWE President and Chief Executive Officer, effective July 1. He succeeds Jimmy Huggins, who will retire and transition into a consultant role for the staff and board.
Powell has been an integral part of the SEWE team for more than a decade and has helped grow our nonprofit into the nation’s premier wildlife art show and the largest event of its kind in the U.S. He first joined the organization in 2007 and assumed the position of Executive Director in 2011. During his tenure, he has gained extensive experience in senior management and leadership. He has guided the strategic development of our nationally-acclaimed event and overseen the organization’s day-to-day operations, which involves collaborating with SEWE’s corporate partners, coordinating the show’s exhibitors and executing site layouts for venues.
“The SEWE Board of Directors is extremely pleased to announce that John Powell will assume the position of President and CEO of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition. John has been a valuable member of the SEWE team for many years, and as Executive Director has earned the full support and respect of our Board,” said Neil Robinson, Chairman. “We have total confidence that John’s energy and enthusiasm will effect a seamless transition following the stellar leadership of Jimmy Huggins. As outgoing President and Founding Board Member of the nonprofit, the Board has elected Jimmy an Emeritus Member of the Board.”
SEWE recently celebrated its 40th year in February 2022 with a milestone event that spanned five downtown venues and showcased 100 international wildlife artists, 300 exhibitors and 80 on-site activities. The event generated an economic impact of roughly $50 million and received support from nearly 50 esteemed corporate partners, including Purina, Boeing, Wells Fargo, Dominion Energy, Orvis and Verizon.
“The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition is a stalwart for Charleston and the state of South Carolina, and it has been built each year and over time by an army of dedicated staff, corporate and vendor partners, and loyal attendees,” said Powell. “While I count myself fortunate to be a steward and serve an extraordinary Board of Directors, SEWE belongs to the region and state which it supports through its mission each year. SEWE and Charleston have changed over my 17 years with the organization, and our challenges are similar – evolution without losing sight of what makes it truly special. I look forward to the future of SEWE and working with a dedicated team to support wildlife art and conservation initiatives, while providing a profound economic impact to the region and state of South Carolina.”
SEWE began in 1983 as a way to encourage locals and visitors to enjoy the Charleston area, support community attractions and celebrate the great outdoors. Over the past four decades, our event has become a staple on the Southeast’s calendar and the unofficial kick-off to tourism season in the Lowcountry, occurring annually in Charleston over Presidents’ Day Weekend. SEWE has grown exponentially in its 40 years, from 5,000 attendees in 1983 to 50,000 attendees in 2022.
The nonprofit’s success and impact on Charleston are unprecedented in its storied history. SEWE has surpassed many of the events in which it was originally modeled after, in both size and scope. The nonprofit consistently sells out its VIP program and special events and brings repeat visitors to the region, driving high occupancy rates and direct visitor spending for the city.
“For four decades, SEWE has been a vital part of the Charleston scene, allowing citizens and visitors alike to savor the beauty of nature here in the Lowcountry, while working to conserve it for future generations. It’s been an outstanding first 40 years, and I look forward to working with John as he leads SEWE into the next 40.” – Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
Huggins, who has been involved with SEWE since its inception, has expressed full trust and support in the board’s appointment of Powell. “I will pass John the torch that will light the future of SEWE,” said Huggins. “When he assumes the CEO position, I am confident that his ability, integrity and determination will ensure that SEWE reaches its very highest potential. I have treasured every moment of my time with SEWE and look forward to encouraging the event for years to come.”
Powell will continue to help SEWE grow on the national stage and pursue its mission to showcase the finest in wildlife art, support conservation, positively influence wildlife and nature education and impact the local and statewide economies through increased tourism.