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The human community on the island is remarkable

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: LOCAL Life asked Steve Birdwell, president of Sea Pines Resort, to share his thoughts on what it means to be local. Birdwell first moved to Hilton Head Island in 1982 and returned in 1992 to join the Sea Pines community. LOCAL Life welcomes letters to the editor and comments on our website. Write to [email protected]. 

By Steve Birdwell

LOCAL SINCE 1982 – When not serving as president of Sea Pines Resort, Steve Birdwell enjoys relaxing at the beach, exploring local waterways and spending time with his wife, Beth, their family and friends.

Being “local” has a different meaning for many, but every local clearly remembers the first time they arrived on Hilton Head Island.  

The first time I crossed the bridge to Hilton Head, I was 22 years old, a recent accounting graduate from the University of Tennessee, and I had the very good fortune of transferring to work in Cherry, Bekaert & Holland’s Hilton Head office. In that small accounting office off Pope Avenue, I met managing partner Wayne Busey as well as Bill Motsch and Janice Gray – three people who became more than co-workers; they became lifelong friends.

For a single guy, the island offered the right combination of a warm climate, many outdoor activities and a small-town flavor. But I soon realized what made the island such a special place were the residents who lived and worked on Hilton Head. I had numerous opportunities to meet locals who were born and raised on the island and many others who had moved to the island from locations all over the country.  

In the early 1980s networking wasn’t by email, text message or Facebook, it was meeting a client or friend for lunch at the original Reilley’s or “meat and three” at Remy’s. It was seeing business associates and clients at the Red & White, at church or enjoying an evening at the Quarterdeck with David Wingo and the Simpson Brothers. It was knowing the business owners, their staffs and patrons, and understanding it took all of us to make our island community flourish and thrive.

I met my wife, Beth, in 1988 on the beach behind the William Hilton Inn, which is now Marriott’s Grand Ocean Resort. We were introduced by mutual friends, and our first date the following weekend was dinner at Le Bistro. In 1990 we got married and moved to Atlanta for career opportunities.

But the island lifestyle had been ingrained in our souls, and we dreamed of returning. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to come back to the island in 1992 and join the Sea Pines community. Working with many of the early visionaries of Sea Pines, including Jim Chaffin, Marc Puntereri, JR Richardson and David Ames, has been life-changing.

Like so many residents, Beth and I enjoy everything the island has to offer: walking the beaches, bike riding, exploring the local waterways, soaking up the energy and activity in Harbour Town, where we’ve made our home and, of course, enjoying time with friends and creating relationships with new locals.

In the words of Charles Fraser, the founder of Sea Pines, “the human community on the island is remarkable and is the greatest accomplishment of the island as a whole.” 

I completely agree.