OC PRT Director receives Award

Oconee County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Director Phil Shirley received the Certificate of Special Recognition from the South Carolina Federation of Museums during their conference last week. As director of Oconee County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Shirley has seen that heritage tourism is an important part of Oconee County’s growing tourism economy. Shirley has been a champion for Oconee County’s local museums as well. He has annually secured financial support from Oconee County to be used to staff and operate the Oconee Heritage Center. Recently, Shirley helped develop and propose a program funded by accommodations tax to provide paid staff at three small museums that were previously struggling to open with volunteers only one day per week. This program expanded those museum’s operating hours, provided trained and consistent staff and also provided funding for a collective marketing and branding effort called Museums Off Main which includes the Oconee Heritage Center, the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina, Patriot’s Hall: Oconee County’s Veterans Museum, and the Oconee Heritage Center’s General Store Museum. The program has successfully attracted more visitors to Oconee County’s local museums. Shirley has also helped the Oconee Heritage Center in emergency situations, helping to secure funding for HVAC repairs after a catastrophic failure and roof repairs to the General Store Museum. Shirley has also encouraged partnerships within the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department providing supplemental staff and assistance with special projects. Shirley received this special recognition at an awards luncheon at the South Carolina Federation of Museums Annual Conference, which was held in Oconee County, March 21-23.