From The Blog

Then And Now: KICA Comes Of Age – Part 1

This summer, two island entities are celebrating 20-year anniversaries. June marked 20 years since Kiawah Resort Associates (KRA) purchased Kiawah from the original developers, the Kuwait Investment Company (KIC), and this month the Town of Kiawah Island (TOKI) commemorates 20 years since its incorporation. Digest looks back at the growth of the Kiawah Island Community Association (KICA) over those 20 years.

The Kuwaitis created KICA in 1976, shortly after KIC purchased Kiawah from the heirs of the lumberman C.C. Royal. In the spring of 1988, the community association was still a fledgling, not yet flying on its own. In those dozen years of initial island development, a half-dozen resident families expanded to several hundred, but few knew of the community association beyond its mention in the papers they received when they purchased their property. This was because the association was not yet a separate entity, and all of its functions were handled by KIC. One of the first moves by KRA, after its purchase of Kiawah from KIC, was to begin treating KICA as a separate entity. Frank Brumley and Milt Morgan were managing the island for KRA, and they hired a part-time manager for the association, Margie Brislin. She sought office assistance from an employment agency, and this brought Tammy McAdory to Kiawah as a “temp.” Tammy quickly became KICA’s first full-time office employee. She and Baynard Seabrook, assistant director of security, formed the entire complement of full-time staff. Twenty years later, Tammy is KICA’s executive director, and Baynard, a fixture on Kiawah for 25 years (including periods working for the Kuwaitis and for an island builder before the KRA purchase, and for KRA at Freshfields after his KICA retirement), is enjoying a real retirement in the mountains of North Carolina. Margie, however, did not stay long. The director job quickly outgrew its part-time designation, and Margie did not want to work full time. After less than a year, she moved to Florida to be closer to family, and Bob Cowan became the first full-time manager of KICA.

KIC had contracted out the island security services, and many island residents were unhappy with the operation. When KRA arrived, Milt Morgan and Frank Brumley hired Howard Hemperly,
who was in the process of retiring from the air force, as part-time security director and Baynard as a full-time assistant director. One of Baynard’s responsibilities was to oversee the contract company.

He was instrumental, after a few months, in replacing them with Murray Guard, another security company with higher personnel standards. The expectation was that when KICA was able to take
security fully in-house, they could hire the well-trained Murray Guard people to work directly for them.

Baynard recalls the security facilities and operation in that first year. “The gatehouse was closer to the general store than it is now. It was a small, elevated wooden building with steps on both sides. We had to go up and down the steps to meet the vehicles coming in.” This was not a problem in 1988 as the number of vehicles was usually low. The Kuwaitis had constructed a second gate about ¼ mile down Governors Drive when they began to sell property on the Vanderhorst Plantation, encompassing the eastern half of the island. KRA rebuilt the gate in its current location on the Kiawah Island Parkway when they began developing Rhett’s Bluff so that it would be behind the second gate. This also enabled them to place the Settlement and the River Course behind the second gate when they developed the “South Pasture,” an area that had once been home to herds of deer so tame they would not flee when
people approached, but had sustained significant tree loss during Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

Baynard’s primary responsibilities did not change much in 20 years of helping to manage an in-house security force. Among other tasks, he dealt with safety issues, handling sick or injured wildlife, and training new people—both because of growth in the security force and somewhat high turnover. “KICA security personnel are unarmed,” he notes. “The town contracts with Charleston County sheriffs’ deputies, and they provide the muscle. They are armed and they have the vehicles and the resources to handle the confrontational issues.” Security work intensified after the 1991 Ryder Cup, which gave Kiawah national and international exposure and triggered an increase in real estate sales and island visits from the public. Whereas once the biggest problem was controlling under-age drinking and youthful hijinks, today it is traffic.

When Tammy McAdory became KICA’s first full-time office staffer at the beginning of 1989, she had little to work with: a little space with a typewriter and two drawers of a file cabinet. One of her first acts was to buy a computer. KRA was handling bookkeeping and finance, but Tammy had fingers in many pies related to setting up a new office for a new organization: legal matters, correspondence with members, taking minutes of board meetings and keeping corporate records, publishing a rough newsletter, and handling all printed matter, covenant compliance, employee benefits, and coordinating work orders, as well as making coffee and fixing leaky sinks and toilets.

Six months after KRA’s purchase of Kiawah, KICA was preparing for the member director elections at their first independent annual meeting. Tammy recalls, “We did everything manually back then, all registration, proxy assignments, quorum counting, vote counting. Today it is all computerized and takes about 30 minutes, but then it took us most of the three to four hour meeting to finish.” A few months later, KICA acquired its first real office, a trailer on KRA-owned Little Rabbit Island, which Tammy describes as “a dreamy spot on the Kiawah River, an idyllic place to work. We had a picnic table and hammock, and on nice days we’d bring the phones out and work on the deck. The deer would come right up to us.” A used trailer donated by the utility company soon joined the office trailer, when the two-person security team of Baynard and Howard had to move out of their small space at the back of the General Store.

In the mid-1990’s, KRA needed the property they had given KICA to use, and KICA needed additional office space so the staff could grow. KICA manager Bob Cowan negotiated with the town to
design and lease space in the new municipal building being planned on Beachwalker Drive. In 1997, KICA moved to its new offices, where it still occupies half of the Municipal Center. It now takes
about 20 people to perform the functions once handled by Tammy and Margie or her successor Bob Cowan. With separate departments for maintenance, land management, lakes management, and the community center joining security as in-house operations, the full time year-round staff of two is now around 90. The population the association serves has mushroomed to 7,200 in 2008.

This is part one in a two-part series on KICA’s growth over the past 20 years. Coming in October’s issue of Digest, part two will consist of discussion on Bob Cowan, the first full-time manager of KICA, as an agent of change; start-up issues of trust and communication between the association and its members; KICA jumps into the social and recreational scene; and changing demographics today in association membership.