One more item on the list of things struggling military museum Patriots Point needs: a new executive director.
Less than a year after taking the position on a permanent basis, Dick Trammell tendered his resignation Friday.
In a letter to the Patriots Point Development Authority's chairman, 64-year-old Trammell said he intends to stay on the job through year's end.
He also offered to return to his previous position of tourism and business development director if the state agency finds a new executive director before Dec. 31. He also said he would consider staying on beyond that, if asked.
Trammell hung his decision on the fact that the authority's board will grow from six to nine people in coming months, keeping only three of the original members. The new governor gets three appointments, and recent legislation adds three additional members selected by the Senate president pro tem, the speaker of the House and the state adjutant general.
"The board is going to be turning over and, in my opinion, they should be able to choose who they would like to lead the next phase at Patriots Point," Trammell said Monday. "I think they need to have that opportunity to choose their new executive director, just as the previous board has."
Trammell took over as interim executive director of the state-owned Mount Pleasant tourist attraction when retired Army Brigadier Gen. Hugh Tant III resigned in April 2009, also after less than a year on the job. At the time Patriots Point faced millions of dollars in repairs to its warships -- including the famed destroyer Laffey, riddled with holes and posing an environmental threat of sinking into Charleston Harbor.
The financial shortfalls became more urgent as Trammell took the helm and another hurricane season approached. He and other advocates successfully lobbied for a $9.2 million state loan for emergency repairs to the Laffey, yet Patriots Point failed to receive federal funding it banked on for repaying the state money.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell recently requested that the Legislative Audit Council conduct an oversight evaluation of the agency, writing in a letter that Patriots Point "has drifted into a state of inertia and has become overcome by its liabilities."
Shortly thereafter a design firm hired by the attraction unveiled the preliminary concept for a master plan to redevelop the nearly 400 acres of waterfront land at Patriots Point. The proposal would create a "grand harborfront trail and parks" stretching along three miles, build 2,000 private homes and a new hotel and establish a walkable town center to appeal to visitors and residents.
"There were a lot of issues public and elected officials needed to know about," Trammell said of his tenure. "I think any time that you start making things like that known, when there is greater awareness, there is greater concern. But it had to be done."
He became permanent executive director in September and earns a $100,000 annual salary.
Patriots Point Development Authority Chairman John Hagerty said Trammell served the agency well but makes a good point about letting the board pick the next leader. Hagerty said his agency already identified two or three potential replacements who live in South Carolina.
"We are now in discussions with some very exciting prospects for the end of the year ... Here's the good news: We have a competent person in that position now, so we have the luxury of time in picking this new guy," he said.
Trammell previously worked in the Lowcountry hospitality industry in the 1980s, when he helped merge three tourism groups to create what is now the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also marketed the region as a year-round destination.
Trammell returned to his home state of North Carolina in 1989 and served as director of its Travel and Tourism Division, where he reversed an eight-year decline. He founded a travel industry consulting company in 1995.
More than 130 people applied for the executive director position last time around, and the S.C. Office of Human Resources narrowed that list to 13 candidates. The board then chose Trammell from those remaining resumes.
Patriots Point's board sets its own search process but can call upon the Office of Human Resources again, if it chooses.
Reach Allyson Bird at firstname.lastname@example.org.