Angel Postell has decided to leave her $118,000-a-year post as executive director of the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival.
Postell, one of the founders of the event that marked its eighth year three weeks ago, told The Post and Courier that she was ready “to do my own thing” again. Postell said she would return to running her own public relations company as she was doing before assuming the leadership of the festival when it was just starting up.
The daughter of a former state legislator, Ernie Passailaigue, Postell said she had been thinking of her departure for awhile. After the 2013 festival that ended March 3 and the James Beard award finalists announcement in Charleston a week ago, Postell said she felt the time was right.
The Beard finalists, announced in Charleston for the first time and considered an honor in itself, included two of the city’s most prominent chefs. Sean Brock was named as one of five in the running for Outstanding Chef and Mike Lata’s The Ordinary restaurant was nominated as a finalist for Best New Restaurant. The national awards often are referred to as the Oscars of the food world.
Richard Jerue, board chairman of the festival, thanked Postell and said she was leaving at the top of her game.
He said Postell has made the Charleston festival one of the top such events in the country — it drew 23,000 people this year and has an estimated $6 million to $7 million economic impact. He praised her “dedication, tireless efforts and focused leadership” and said the 2013 festival was “our best ever.”
As for the national spotlight on Charleston chefs, “I think (Postell) has been absolutely instrumental in all of that,” said Jerue, who has been on the board for six years and chair for the past two.
“She did everything she wanted to do. She set something up from scratch” and made it successful, Jerue said. “Her leadership was incredible. She developed a great staff, which will be her legacy.”
Postell will remain with the festival for three more months, until the end of June and the festival’s fiscal year. She said it was a difficult decision that was in part driven by the desire to spend more time with her family. Postell and her husband, Arnold, are the parents of two young boys.
She said she also plans to continue being involved with the festival as a volunteer.
Jerue said the festival will conduct a national search for Postell’s replacement. “We’re looking for somebody who has a sense of our festival and our city but also who can take the festival to the next level.”
He does not expect a new person on board by the time Postell leaves, and said it will be a challenge for the board to come up with a transition plan.
Postell and Circa 1886 chef Marc Collins hatched the idea of the festival in 2004 in a casual conversations. They summoned the city’s chefs and other playmakers to get the conversation going, but it soon became apparent that somebody needed to be in charge. Postell was drafted, in the process dissolving her budding public relations venture at the time, Home Team.
“I expected it to do well,” Collins said at the opening of the 2012 festival. Still, there was uncertainty with Charleston being a smaller market than some other cities with similar festivals, he said. “Are they gonna come here? And they have.”