Trammell to stay on the job

Dick Trammell

The man who led Patriots Point through months of turmoil surrounding a sinking warship and empty coffers became permanent executive director at the naval and maritime museum this week.

Dick Trammell, a longtime tourism professional, moved from marketing director to interim executive director in April when Gen. Hugh Tant resigned.

The attraction had just announced its need for more than $64 million to remain a thriving museum, and the destroyer Laffey, made famous in World War II as "The Ship That Would Not Die," required multimillion-dollar repairs within months to keep it from sinking into Charleston Harbor.

The Laffey, by virtue of a $9.2 million state loan, headed to the shipyard last month, and the Coast Guard cutter Ingham transferred to a South Florida museum. But Patriots Point's tasks ahead include making overdue repairs to the submarine Clamagore and the museum's primary attraction, the aircraft carrrier Yorktown -- plus finding the funding to do so.

Patriots Point Development Authority Chairman John Hagerty said Trammell made necessary personnel changes during his short time in the position and brings to it a certain humility.

"He's not the kind of person who has all the answers," Hagerty said. "He's the person who goes and gets all the answers."

Reached in Chicago for the Medal of Honor Convention, 63-year-old Trammell said he decided that sticking with the position "was the right thing to do."

"Before I came to Patriots Point, I often thought about what I would do if I were there," Trammell said. "I think it's a tremendous tribute to those who protect our freedom."

The authority's attorney, Bill Craver, said more than 130 people applied for the executive director position and that the S.C. Office of Human Resources narrowed that list to 13 candidates The board met in executive session Tuesday to consider those resumes and, according to Craver, found only one standout: Trammell.

They returned to open session and unanimously approved his appointment, Craver said. The authority board requested a salary of about $100,000, which requires approval from the state Agency Head Salary Commission.

Trammell first applied for the top job following David Burnette's resignation in 2007. The authority chose Tant, a decorated Army commander.

Trammell previously worked in the Lowcountry hospitality industry in the 1980s, when he helped merge three tourism groups to create the organization now known as 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.

As executive director at Patriots Point, he said he looks forward to opening a marine science museum on the Yorktown's third deck and perhaps designating a special space to showcase visiting exhibits from other museums and to rotate in some of Patriots Point's own collection.

Trammell said the public never sees 95 percent of the museum's artifacts.

"We want to show our visitors, even local residents, things they've never seen before," he said.