COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley appointed a Charleston hotel executive to run the state's tourism agency Thursday, but the announcement was delayed because of concerns from black legislators that her Cabinet doesn't reflect the state's black population.
Haley nominated Duane Parrish to run the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department. Parrish is the president of Premier Hospitality Group.
"What we looked for in a PRT director is someone from the private sector who knows the tourism industry, its players, and, most importantly, that tourism is critical to economic development and job creation in our state," said Haley. "That's why we're extremely excited to welcome Duane Parrish to our team. He will work around the clock, seven days a week, to ensure South Carolina is the premier destination for tourists from around the country and around the world."
One of Parrish's first tasks will be to find a sponsor for the Heritage Golf Tournament in Hilton Head. Officials said the tournament brings in about $50 million in spending to the Hilton Head area and finding the right sponsor will be a key to continued success.
Haley's announcement was delayed by about 20 minutes as the governor huddled with members of the Legislative Black Caucus.
State Rep. Harold Mitchell of Spartanburg is the caucus's chairman-elect and says the group met with Haley twice on concerns her Cabinet and staff appointments don't reflect the state's 30 percent black population.
Haley responded to reporters' questions about diversity concerns after Thursday's appointment announcement. "It's an issue that I share and certainly we had a great dialogue on it," said Haley. "I think what we're going to do is we're going to talk about positions that are available and ask them to submit resumes for people that they think would be good to fit these positions."
Governor Haley also released this statement, "I've never been one that identifies with quotas or numbers. Of course, I want to see diversity, of course I want to see female representation, of course I want to see anything that makes South Carolina proud. But my goal is to get the brightest in here, and to make sure that I get the people who are going to work the hardest for the state. I met with the Black Caucus several weeks ago, and I told them: Give me resumes, help me find people, and they didn't submit the first resume. I will continue to look for diversity. In order to find good people, we all have to work to make that happens. What I talked to them about this morning is now, I'm getting into the boards and commissions. Help me find people who are strong and qualified to fill these leadership roles."
WIS contacted the legislative black caucus for a response to Haley's comments. Richland County Representative Leon Howard says what Governor Haley said is not true. Howard said caucus members did submit black candidates. Howard said he doesn't know how many or for what positions, but he said he will find out. Rep. Howard also stated "We don't plan to be her employment firm."