The acting director of the Department of Juvenile Justice has been tapped as the agency’s permanent head.
Gov. Nikki Haley announced Sylvia Murray as director, effective Thursday, during a news conference.
Just Tuesday, Haley announced that Murray would serve as acting director to replace retired director Margaret Barber and that a search was under way for Barber’s successor.
But Haley said in looking for a replacement, she knew Murray was the best option.
“I typically don’t go within the agency. I go outside of the agency to find the my next leader,” Haley said. “What I saw was there was no one better than Sylvia Murray.”
Haley commended the work done by Barber during her time at DJJ and said she is confident in Murray’s capability to lead the nationally accredited agency. DJJ, with about 1,400 employees, oversees about 140 prisoners and another 8,500 juveniles in other disciplinary programs.
Murray, 53, has worked as the agency’s deputy director of administrative services. The Sumter native received an undergraduate degree in public affairs from Columbia College and a masters in management from Webster University.
Murray worked for eight years at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, starting in July 1995. She served as the department’s business manager, grants administrator and accounting manager throughout her time there. She also worked at the Department of Consumer Affairs before joining Juvenile Justice in 2004.
Murray started at DJJ as the senior business manager, serving eight years before becoming the deputy director of administrative service in January 2013. According to Haley, she has been Barber’s right-hand person for the past four years.
“We are so proud to get where we are right now,” Barber said. “Sylvia is going to take the agency to another level.”
Murray is the third African-American cabinet chief among 17 agency heads Haley has appointed since her election in 2010. But Murray is one of only two African-Americans currently serving in her cabinet. The other is Leroy Smith, director of the S.C. Department of Public Safety since 2011.
Haley selected Kela Thomas in 2011 to be the director of the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, but Thomas resigned from the position in December for unknown reasons.
Murray’s initial annual salary is $118,545, but it will be re-evaluated by the Agency Head Salary Commission, which will suggest a salary for her.
The Associated Press contributed.