Folly Beach Director of Finance to Become Colonel

Commencement day at The Citadel in 2000 was a busy day for Lee Gessner. After receiving his diploma in business administration he rushed back to his barracks, replaced his Full Dress Salt and Pepper uniform with his Army Class A uniform, and rushed to his commissioning ceremony with his shiny second lieutenant gold bars clutched in his hand. By the time the flag was lowered at the daily retreat ceremony, 2LT Gessner, a brand new Army Reserve finance officer, was pondering just what job opportunities might come his way. Sometime next month at Fort Jackson, Lee Gessner will be promoted to Colonel. What a remarkable journey he has had during those 24 years.

Lee’s career has been a continuous blend of military and civilian service, bound by a common thread of finance expertise. Along his journey Lee worked as an auditor for KPMG, Arthur Andersen, and Capstone Mill. He earned his MBA and CPA and established his own small CPA business. During all of his civilian endeavors Lee also served in the Army Reserve. He was the CFO of his garrison support unit in Florida. Lee was deployed to Iraq as a finance officer. Ask him how he accounted for his $500K generator located somewhere “outside the wall.” After returning from his Iraq deployment on Christmas Eve 2008, Lee made the decision to settle down at Folly Beach.

In December 2014, Lee was offered and accepted the job as the Director of Finance for Folly Beach. He looked forward to his new job and the stability it would bring to his life. Little did he know that his most challenging and potentially destabilizing adventure was still ahead of him. Seven years later in 2021, after COVID had taught us all how to work remotely, Lieutenant Colonel Gessner was offered a chance to command a battalion – a huge honor and a plum opportunity to advance his military career, but with a problematic catch. It would require that he deploy to Fort Bliss Texas.

After some personal soul searching and extensive discussions and coordination with Mayor Tim and the City staff, the Folly Beach Finance Director was deployed to Fort Bliss as the new Commander of the 2/345th Training Support Battalion. For 10 months LTC Gessner literally performed two full time jobs. His days were spent performing his military duties. His evenings and weekends were spent performing his Folly Beach Finance Director duties. It worked surprisingly well. Lee gives some of the credit to COVID which showed us the possibilities and longevity of remote working. But most of the credit goes to the wonderful City staff that stepped up during his deployment. The Department of Defense agreed. In 2022 the City of Folly Beach was the recipient of the prestigious South Carolina Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve Pro Patria Award, which currently hangs on the wall in the foyer at City Hall. Check it out.

Asked if his deployment days are behind him, Lee winked and said that in order to get promoted to Brigadier General he would need to command a brigade. To be continued . . .