From The Blog

KICA Welcomes a New Director of Finance

When KICA’s director of Finance and Administration, Jane Ovenden, made the decision in early 2020 to depart, it was hard to imagine how KICA would replace her. Not only had Jane become an integral part of the organization, but her announcement came shortly before the global pandemic started reshaping daily life.

Despite these challenges, the position garnered interest from some top candidates and in May, KICA asked Johnny Wallace to join the team as our director of Finance and Administration. Prior to accepting this position, he was the director of Finance and Auxiliary Services for Porter-Gaud School. He previously had a 30-year career in commercial banking here in Charleston — a fourth
generation of bankers in his family.

Johnny and his wife, Kaye, live with their Boykin Spaniel Bond in Charleston’s historic district. Their house was built in 1830; Johnny says its upkeep is a constant project. He also has many community ties: he served on the board of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the board of the Episcopal Diocese Community Housing Development Organization, and is Treasurer of the Anglican Diocese of SC. He is also a member of the Charleston CFO Council. It was important to the leadership that KICA’s new director came on board prior to the start of KICA’s 2021 budgeting process, which generally begins in August with departments working to prioritize their needs for the following year. That time is fast approaching, with the added challenge of unprecedented revenue forecasting in this pandemic environment.

Johnny is well aware of the demands this new normal brings, saying “The world has been upended and so has KICA’s budget. I’ve been kind of a fly on the wall watching for the last 6 weeks or so. My first challenges will be managing how to get through the rest of the year budget-wise and then starting to think strategically about 2021.” We’re thrilled to welcome Johnny to the team. To get to know a little more about him, check out the interview below.

What brought you to Charleston originally?
I was born and raised in Spartanburg, SC. I attended Duke University and the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. When I got out of college, my first job was at a bank based in Columbia. After I went through their manager training program, they asked me where I wanted to go. I had always wanted to live in Charleston so I said I’ll take Charleston. What made you decide to go into financial services? My father was a banker, my grandfather was a banker, and my great grandfather was a banker. So it just seemed like the thing to do. I did an internship with a bank in Columbia. When it came time to get a job, I just interviewed with South Carolina banks.

When was the first time you came to Kiawah? What was your first impression of the island?
My wife’s first job after college was working for the Kuwaitis on Kiawah in the early 80s. She took me out to the island when we first started dating. We went to the Atlantic Room at the old Kiawah Inn. The first time we went, we sat at a table next to Senator Strom Thurmond and his wife.

Kaye later founded her own vacation rental company, Benchmark Rentals, and I spent a lot of weekends on the island helping her. My memories are stuck in the 90s, and it has changed so much in the last 20 years. Kiawah is a beautiful island and one of Charleston’s jewels. I look forward to interacting with property owners and helping to preserve the island for future generations.

KICA has an active finance committee that provides member input and guidance on KICA’s financial decisions. What do you think your role looks like?
To me the role of the finance committee is more strategic. My job in interacting with them is to provide them accurate financial information in a timely manner and a format that makes sense to
them. It’s important that they can get that 30,000foot view of where the organization is going in5 years. That’s what I tried to do at Porter-Gaud— keep them focused on the long-term financial
health and not so much on what we spent last month on the water bill.

What are you going to miss about Porter-Gaud School?
Porter-Gaud is like a family. I have built wonderful relationships with both faculty and staff, and will miss them greatly. I will also miss the students. If I was having a bad day, I could just walk down to the1st grade house and suddenly all was well with the world again.

You spent a few years on the board of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (CWFF), which is such a great showcase of Charleston’s food community. What was your favorite moment?
I actually spent 10 years on the CWFF board, starting in their second year. My two highlights would be leading the search for the current executive director, Jillian Zettler, and serving as board chair for the 10th anniversary of the festival.

You have a lot of experience with cooking for fundraisers, is that right?
I used to do charity dinners in Charlotte with a fraternity brother Mike Gminski, who was playing in the NBA. We’d auction off a dinner for 12 at his house and I’d do most of the cooking while he took the credit. The first time we did it, the dinner sold for $2,000 and we thought we were hot stuff. 15 years later, it sold for $65,000. We brought in Branford Marsalis to entertain — he lived in Durham, and he and Mike were both on the Duke Hospital board. That evening just about killed me so I retired from cooking for large groups, but over the many dinners we raised over $250,000 for children’s charities in Charlotte so it was worth it.

Can you share any great festival food memories?
When I was chair, I had this idea for the chairman’s dinner. There’s this winery in California that I’m particularly fond of, Bond (my dog is named for the winery). I asked them to come to the 10th
anniversary and do this dinner. They don’t do a lot of festivals because their wine is crazily expensive. We got a private home on Colonial Lake, had two James Beard chefs in the kitchen, and my favorite wine was being poured. It was a black tie dinner. Bond the dog was actually at the front door meeting people when they came in. It was a highlight for me. And I didn’t have to cook it.

What is your favorite thing to cook or eat?
This past Saturday, we went to the John’s Island farmers market and we bought a bunch of produce. Then I had to figure out what to do with it! I love the little mystery basket concept. I judged a few of those things at Johnson and Wales back in the day. The produce coming in right now is just amazing. I love to cook any type of seafood or wild game. If there’s a cuisine I like to cook, it’s probably French cuisine. My wife does not cook. That’s something we learned early on in our dating — I was going to be the guy doing the cooking.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Other than my wife, of course: Duke basketball. Go Devils!