Amy Duffy, the chief of staff for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, was presented with the Order of the Palmetto for exceptional service to the state and to the tourism industry. The order was authorized by former Gov. Nikki Haley in January. The Order of the Palmetto is the highest honor the governor can bestow upon a civilian in South Carolina.

Duffy, who, in 1987, was one of the first students from the University of South Carolina to win an outstanding tourism student award, has worked in a leadership capacity with the agency for more than 27 years. Having begun her service a few weeks before Hurricane Hugo struck Charleston in 1989, Duffy quickly became a key figure in the critical relationship between the agency and an industry that includes destination marketing organizations, hoteliers, restaurant owners and attractions. She also oversees an agency staff of more than 400 that operates 47 state parks, provides assistance to communities for recreation development, and promotes the state as a tourism destination. She is also a lead liaison to the governor’s office and serves on the board of directors of the Southeast Tourism Society.

“Her position and significant level of responsibility requires constant sharp focus and effective organization, skills that Amy has mastered,” said Duane Parrish, SCPRT Director. “Our agency is successful because of Amy’s leadership.”

Duffy has helped transform the agency from a standard government enterprise to a trend-setter for public administration. Tourism marketing in South Carolina is considered among the best in the nation and the agency’s management model for state parks is being studied by other states.

“As a leader within SCPRT, she has helped guide that agency to new heights of performance while ensuring the agency operates with an impressive spirit of innovation and dedication,” said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, in his nomination letter to Gov. Haley in January. “She excels in her role as a leader and marketer and always demonstrates a commitment to exceptional public service. She treats everyone with the same respect and courtesy, whether they are an entry-level hourly employee or a high-ranking state official.”

Dean is also a member of the South Carolina Association of Tourism Regions, which presented Duffy with the Fred Brinkman Award in 2008 for exceptional tourism leadership.