Categories: Community

Spend just five minutes in the company of Don Rutledge, and you’ll fully understand the great success he’s had with clients during his tenure at KIRE. His warmth, wit, and a wily sense of humor are evident immediately—natural assets that have, undoubtedly, served him well in his interactions with future Kiawah residents. “If you‘re gonna sell somebody property,” he explains, “my goal was always first to establish a friendship and then make a sale after you’ve established trust. I’m fortunate enough to be able to count a lot of friends that I’ll be able to see in my rearview mirror.” 

For Don (known as “Duke” to friends and co-workers), that first glimpse in the rearview mirror will occur in January, when he retires from his position, following four decades with the company.


If Don’s 40-year tenure at Kiawah seems impressive, consider the tenure of his bloodline: the Rutledge family’s Charleston beginnings go back 11 generations. And except for a prep school education in Massachusetts, Don, himself, has lived in South Carolina his entire life. The heart of Dixie pumps confidently through the Rutledge lineage. 
Having secured both an English and a Law degree from the University of South Carolina, (where he jokes, he emerged “academically unscathed”), Don’s early career found him covering sports for The Post and Courier and then practicing real estate law in the 1970s. In summing up his professional experiences, his self-deprecating humor kicks in, “I distinguished myself with great mediocrity,” he says. 

When the Charleston-based law firm closed its doors in 1979, a friend encouraged him to test the waters of property sales with Kiawah Island Real Estate. (SPOILER ALERT: he loved it.)
“Kiawah just felt right,” he explains, “Sometimes the best decisions you make in life are based on just feeling right. If you like nature, Kiawah’s got it. You like security. It’s got it. You like the beach. It’s got it. You like golf. It’s got it. If you like privacy coupled with the amenities of a small southern city just 21 miles away, it’s got it.”
It is, no doubt, this enthusiasm for the Kiawah lifestyle that paved the way for Don’s success as a Sales Executive.


During his 40-year tenure with KIRE, Don has borne witness to the extraordinary growth of Kiawah’s communities, amenities, and reputation. He takes pride in the mindful development plan of the Island and considers the 1988 transfer of Kiawah from its original Kuwaiti ownership to Charleston’s Darby and Long families a highlight of his career. It was at that point he explains that the Island really began to flourish and enthusiasm for property here exploded. “Based on renewed trust in having a Charleston family as local owners, the real estate sales team was increased and enhanced and produced annual sales numbers that assured the success of Kiawah.” 

Today, in pondering his life after retirement, Don envisions “a tendency to sleep in later” and a great deal more time spent with his two children and four grandchildren. A lifelong golfer and avid hunter, he plans, eventually, to reside in a small home he owns in Rockville on Wadmalaw Island. While he certainly looks forward to life set at a more leisurely pace, he realizes he will miss the daily “friendship and camaraderie” of the Kiawah Island Real Estate team as well as the property owners he’s befriended over the years. The Kiawah experience, though, will be with him always. “While I may not be physically here a lot,” he says, “the distance can’t take away the memories I’ve created over 39 years.”


With so much experience pitching the magic of Kiawah to prospective residents over the years, Don has some time-honored advice for future KIRE Sales Executives.  “First off, there’s no substitute for hard work. An email can’t compete with a phone call in the world of sales. Secondly, when negotiating important contracts, things become crucial. Don’t let electronics control your life. People are still human. They’re not robots. And personal contact is very important. It’s a lot easier to say “no” to an email than it is to a person sitting before you smiling.”

With his clear gift for gab, warm demeanor, and master-storyteller abilities, Don Rutledge’s presence on Kiawah will be greatly missed. However, in sending him off, let’s take solace in the inherent promise made on his outgoing phone message:

“Like the tide, I’m out for a while, but I’ll be coming in again.”