Natalie Ham – Charleston County Government 

Using the law to keep Charleston a destination 

Being a Black female attorney, especially in the South, is difficult. But the challenges Natalie Ham has faced throughout her career—like having people assume she is a court reporter or proving she is qualified for certain roles—have not slowed her down. In fact, the barriers put in front of her have only served as motivation.  

“I have knocked down anything that has ever gotten in my way,” Ham tells Vanguard from South Carolina in early February. “And I hope I can inspire and mentor young female attorneys that look like me to push forward and achieve their goals.” 

Natalie Ham | County Attorney | Charleston County Government 

Natalie Ham | County Attorney | Charleston County Government

Ham, the county attorney for Charleston County in South Carolina, stands at the forefront of innovative legal strategies, actively shaping the county’s landscape and addressing pressing issues. She achieves her goals—and those of the county—through leadership, adaptability and a profound commitment to the community. 

Ham’s dedication to addressing challenges and supporting growth extends beyond her professional domain. Her commitment to equity, community welfare and excellence has shaped Charleston County’s legal landscape and elevated it to new heights, making Ham a driving force behind positive change in the community. 

“I believe in the power of law to create positive change and raise our community. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth, and my commitment to equity and service drives my work as the county attorney,” Ham says. 

Improving the county 

One of Ham’s notable contributions lies in her adept legal support of using accommodations tax revenue to fuel affordable housing projects. Recognizing the pressing need for accessible housing, particularly for essential workers, Ham and the county staff navigated the intricacies of state and federal laws to channel funds toward initiatives that address this critical issue. The result has been a series of impactful endeavors, including emergency rehabs, acquisitions, gap financing and collaborative ventures with nonprofits and private developers to renovate homes. This strategic use of resources showcases Ham’s commitment to translating legal acumen into tangible solutions that directly improve the lives of Charleston County residents. 

Natalie Ham | County Attorney | Charleston County Government 

Ham’s approach to leadership has fostered a collaborative and growth-oriented work environment within the legal department. By ensuring her team actively participates in county committee and council meetings, she imparts a comprehensive understanding of government operations and promotes a positive, supportive office culture. Her emphasis on providing growth opportunities for her team, including lawyers and paralegals, underscores her commitment to achieving legal objectives and fostering professional development within her department. 

Beyond the legal intricacies, Ham was responsible for serving as the head of the environmental management department. Her involvement in environmental matters, coupled with a master’s in public health, has added a valuable dimension to her role. This commitment extends to her collaboration with the community services department, working towards a tax exemption policy that supports the development of affordable housing projects. 

Carolina on her mind 

Ham’s commitment to South Carolina isn’t just confined to her professional journey; it’s a personal touchstone that resonates in her leadership philosophy. In every decision, initiative, and community engagement, Ham carries South Carolina and Charleston County in her mind. Her commitment to fostering growth opportunities for her team and addressing crucial community needs, such as the affordable housing initiative, reflects the state’s spirit of collaboration, innovation and service. 

As she actively shapes the legal landscape in Charleston County, Ham’s commitment to South Carolina isn’t just a geographical reference; it’s a guiding principle that influences her leadership evolution, her multifaceted approach to legal challenges, and her deep sense of responsibility toward the community. South Carolina isn’t just a place on the map; it’s a living, breathing entity in Ham’s professional and personal journey—a source of inspiration that continues to drive her to make a meaningful impact on the lives of those she serves. 

Natalie Ham | County Attorney | Charleston County Government 

Ham’s leadership evolution is marked by a keen recognition of her team’s strengths and a commitment to delegating tasks that align with individual capabilities. Her open-minded and compassionate leadership style and a commitment to work-life balance for her team have cultivated a positive and thriving work atmosphere. 

“I recognize that the gravity of our decisions and advice carry significant weight, so it is important to have an internal culture that can adequately support the external metrics our council members are trying to provide for our community,” Ham says.  

A career in public service 

Ham’s academic journey kicked off at the University of South Carolina, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. Then, she furthered her education with a master’s degree in public health. Driven by a passion for the legal intricacies of public health, Ham earned a JD from South Carolina’s Joseph F. Rice School of Law. She embarked on her professional journey with a strong foundation in law and a keen understanding of health-related legal matters. 

During almost three years as an assistant attorney general, Ham honed her legal skills and gained invaluable experience in the intricacies of governmental law. Building on this foundation, she dedicated five years to the Solomon Law Group, contributing to various legal facets within the private sector. Ham’s commitment to public service continued as she served two and a half years as an assistant city attorney of Columbia, South Carolina’s capital city. During this time, she navigated the complexities of municipal law, further enriching her legal expertise. 

Natalie Ham | County Attorney | Charleston County Government 

Her journey took an educational turn when she assumed the role of general counsel at the Charleston County School District, where she dedicated nearly four years to legal matters in the education sector. This role allowed her to contribute significantly to the local community’s educational landscape. In April 2021, Ham joined Charleston County Government. 

“Public service is generally thought of as something done by advocates, non-profit organizations or elected officials, but I have learned that governmental agencies all over this state and likely the nation have thousands of individuals committed to public service simply by the nature of their work,” Ham says. “I am proud to be considered a public servant, and for me, that means prioritizing the needs of others above personal gain.” 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: March 12, 2024



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