Industry mourns boating advocate Suzi DuRant

South Carolina boating advocate Suzi DuRant, 67, passed away February 25.

DuRant, who most recently spearheaded the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s efforts in South Carolina, passed away following a battle with ALS that she fought with grace, optimism, and perseverance. Suzi’s successful and impressive career and her passion and dedication for the marine industry are a lasting inspiration that will continue to guide NMMA, its members and especially the South Carolina boating community, the association said in a statement.

“We are heartbroken to experience such a great loss. We’ll not only miss Suzi’s unwavering dedication to our industry, but her genuine and thoughtful friendship,” said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. “Suzi had a unique ability to inspire those around her with her optimism and passion for her life and work. She possessed a fierce work ethic and was an intelligent and compassionate leader who will forever leave an impact on those who knew her. Suzi put her heart and soul into all she accomplished and will be greatly missed.”

DuRant’s career in advocacy began In Washington D.C. with the American Bankers Association. Following the ABA, she worked in public affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department under Secretaries John Connally and George Schultz, serving primarily as speech writer/press aide for Paul Volcker, Under Secretary for International Monetary Affairs. Following her work at Treasury, she was with Golembe Associates, a private banking consulting firm where she specialized in international banking.

After eight years of the rat race, DuRant and her husband, Nelson, departed Washington, D.C., on their boat, Sanctuary, for an adventure in sailing. The adventure lasted 13 years, culminating with a transatlantic passage. Her years sailing and chartering from Maine to the Caribbean gave her a depth of knowledge in and commitment to the boating world. Time spent managing marinas with Nelson along the Chesapeake Bay further increased her expertise. In 1996, DuRant and Nelson moved to Charleston, S.C. where they started a marine business.

Almost immediately, DuRant immersed herself as a volunteer with the South Carolina Marine Association, chairing the boat show committee and serving on the Board. In 2006, Suzi went from volunteer to paid staff as the executive director of the SCMA. She led the industry in South Carolina assuming control of the Clean Marina program to keep it viable when state agencies decided they could not do it any longer. She has lobbied the South Carolina legislature on behalf of recreational boating on a wide range of issues, from taxation to dredging.

Most recently, DuRant represented the industry on the State Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Task Force and oversaw industry participation in the South Carolina Water Safety Coalition. For many years, she produced the Charleston In-Water Boat Show with an all-volunteer staff, and has worked to restore the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, advocating in the South Carolina legislature and serving on the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway Association Board of Directors. DuRant was also the architect of affiliating the SCMA with NMMA.

During last year’s American Boating Congress in May 2016, she was recognized with the NMMA Lifetime Achievement Award. Dammrich, a friend and colleague of DuRant, said at the time, “Suzi makes sure NMMA remains highly involved in industry issues throughout the state of South Carolina and has created strong advocates for recreational boating among South Carolina’s Members of Congress, the state legislature and state agencies. Her unwavering work has created long-lasting, positive changes for the state of South Carolina and the boating industry at large and we thank her for her commitment.”

DuRant was a regular at ABC as a prominent advocate for South Carolina and the industry. And, just following ABC in June, NMMA held a retirement celebration in Charleston, S.C., with a number of industry leaders toasting the many significant successes and achievements throughout her career in the marine industry. One notable message came from South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who thanked DuRant for her hard work, dedication and support of the South Carolina boating community and added, “I am proud to commend you on a job well done, and on a more personal note, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the courage you have shown in your fight with ALS. You have never, ever given up. And your courage serves as an inspiration for us all. I am humbled by your spirit and your faith.”

DuRant will be remembered dearly by NMMA and the recreational boating community. NMMA is proud to call DuRant a member of its team.

There will be a memorial service for DuRant at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, 2017, at the French Huguenot Church, 136 Church Street, Charleston, S.C. with a reception to follow at 44 Queen Street. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests supporting Suzi’s Team in the MDA Muscle Walk in Charleston by using this link: or making a donation in Suzi’s name to the MDA of Charleston, S.C., c/o Muscular Dystrophy Association, 121 Executive Center Drive, #138, Columbia, SC 29210

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