Who: Jessica G. Pedigo
Occupation: Preservation manager for Historic Savannah Foundation. Also manages student interns "throughout the year." Serves as manager of the Mayor's Alliance to Save Historic Houses.
Personal: Native Savannah resident
Pet: "I just adopted a Great Dane/lab from the Humane Society. Her name is Georgia."
Salary: "Pennies on the dollar. I'd rather not say. But nobody in nonprofits has a stellar salary. We work because we love the work we do."
How she got started: "Initially, I worked in the summer for the Melaver family when they were rehabilitating what is now the post office on Telfair Square...
"This was an old, vacant building, the old gas company building, that was very warehouse-ish. And I saw it transformed from vacant, open space to usable space. That piqued my interest." (The old building now houses not only the post office but also restaurants Roly Poly and Alligator Soul.)
"I decided to go back to school and get my master's in historic preservation."
She also worked for J.T. Turner Construction as a project intern. "I did everything including hauling trash from the third floor to a dumpster in the lane."
Education: 1998 graduate from Jenkins High School. Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University in 2002 with majors in English and history and a minor in sociology. Earned a Master of Arts in Historic Preservation from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2006.
First Job: Coaching a week-long Savannah soccer camp when she was about 15 or 16 years old.
Job skills needed now: "First and foremost, patience. There are a lot of moving parts in what I do. I work with the city and homeowners, trying to prevent the unnecessary demolition of historic properties" even if the buildings look rundown.
"A lot of people would say they are ugly. To me, I see a property that has hope and promise not only for the individual homeowner but the neighborhood."
Another need: "Creativity. In this economic climate, it is so difficult for homeowners to afford the repair. I look for partners able to donate their time - architects who will help and offer free or extremely reduced work. And Thomas & Hutton Engineering gets paid at cost or an extremely reduced rate. My father who is semi-retired from law will help some owners to clear the title to properties."
Also required: "A strong knowledge of buildings. It helped that before I worked for Historic Savannah Foundation, I managed rehab projects for developers and investors. I was project manager over several construction projects, including doing a lot of finishes on cabinets, flooring, light fixtures."
After starting work at Historic Savannah Foundation in 2008, "I love what I do. I get to work with historic buildings that are all different. Even when they're in a state of disrepair. I love walking through properties that have been in families for decades."
Her job is "trying to bring these properties into compliance with the codes. If we can spend a little time to rehab them, it's much healthier for a neighborhood, instead of having a neighborhood of vacant lots."
Learning all the time: "I learn the underlying history of Savannah. One homeowner wanted to rehabilitate her (family's) building because her grandfather was a freed slave. She had a memory that her grandfather had a corner store. She had wonderful memories of the Eastside Historic District."
Perks of the job: "Getting to be outside in this beautiful city looking at properties, walking through properties...I learn things that I don't think I learned in school."
And when a building is finally rehabilitated, "it's a great joy to see the building used."
Drawbacks: "Most people look at it (a decaying building) and say 'Let's tear it down.' I look at it as what could be there. "Once a building is lost, it's gone forever. If we can't put a package together, it's gone. We have lost a couple of buildings..but we've saved a lot, some that are not fully rehabilitated. Are they saved forever? No building is saved forever. It depends on the owner."
Another drawback: "Being outside when it's raining and cold. And summers in Savannah in July, August, I look at buildings that are vacant. And they don't have heat or air conditioning."
Also a negative: "There's not much grant money available" for restoring old buildings...And sometimes you have to have lead removal before you can apply for the grant."
Advice: "Work in the field ... And it's important to know how a nonprofit works. You're in a small organization where everyone pitches in."
Also, "Do what you enjoy. Some days here are extremely frustrating. We've lost a battle, and there's nothing else we can do to save a property." But often, "I get to work with historic properties in hopes of creating more vibrant communities in Savannah."
Memberships: The branch leadership group of the U.S. Green Building Council, board member of Keep Savannah Beautiful, part of a community advisory group for the Telfair Museum to plan a "Slavery and Freedom Symposium" in October, 2011, historic preservation advisory committee for Savannah Technical College and historic preservation advisory committee for the Early College program in Savannah public schools.