Democratic Richland County Councilman Jim Manning says he will not seek re-election in 2020.
Manning, who was first elected in 2008, tells Free Times that he will complete his current term, which runs through the end of next year. But after that he will step away from his District 8 seat. District 8 is in the north central and northeast parts of Richland County.
The third-term councilman says he simply is looking for more time to dedicate to business.
"Well, I started a new business about two years ago, and I have some opportunities that lay ahead of me that need time, attention and focus," Manning says. "So, that's what I am looking to do. I have been very honored to serve. I am very proud of many, many accomplishments. I have done things in chunks of decades. I've spent over a decade with County Council. Career-wise, there is another avenue I want to pursue over the next decade, decade and a half.
"At my age, to devote what I need to that, I can only do so many things well at one time. I have given this [Council] service my very best, and now it's time for me to pursue some other things that have gotten started and need my time and attention."
Manning, 63, says he's started a consulting company, Gray Hair Solutions, LLC, and that he will focus heavily on that when he leaves Council.
When Manning's term ends, County Council will lose one of its more colorful characters. Manning is known for his shock of flowing gray hair, his collection of bowties, his deep Southern drawl and a cutting sense of humor.
He tells Free Times he thinks it's important to make an early announcement that he will not be seeking the seat again next year, so that potential candidates can begin making plans.
"I think it was extremely important for the citizens of Richland County District 8 that I go ahead and announce this," Manning says. "Because filing begins in the middle of March of this coming year. It is a very strongly Democratic district, so it's one of those many, many, many kind of places in the state where the primary will likely determine who is going to serve in this capacity. I wanted to give people time to know it's going to be an open seat and contemplate what their interest may be."
Richland County Council is largely Democratic. Among its 11 members, only two — District 1's Bill Malinowski and District 6's Joe Walker III — are Republicans.
There are several items Manning says he has been particularly proud of during his time on Council, including improvements along Decker Boulevard, where the Decker Center county complex was dedicated in 2017. He also says the county has made strides in economic development.
"When I first got on Council we didn't have an economic development director department," Manning says. "That was actually my very first motion. I also did some work with Council that resulted in us creating a sustainability director to do green initiatives."
Manning did admit to some regrets during his time on County Council.
"Regrets, I've had a few," the silver-maned Councilman says, channeling Frank Sinatra. "I regret that there wasn't a better relationship between county staff and the Program Development Team, for us to have worked more in harmony. That probably is the greatest regret."
The councilman was referring to the team of three private companies that, for the last five years, had been contracted to run the county's billion dollar transportation penny tax program. The penny tax, intended to fund transportation improvements and the county's bus system, has, at times, been fraught with controversy through the years. Earlier this year County Council voted to bring management of the program in-house, and its relationship with the PDT will come to an end in November.
Manning also was one of the more vocal members of Council as it regarded getting rid of former County Administrator Gerald Seals. He was among those who voted to fire Seals in April 2018. Manning was not present for the later vote in which Council agreed to a $1 million settlement with Seals. Council agreed to the settlement in hopes of staving off a lawsuit from Seals.
Aside from his burgeoning business interests — he says Gray Hair Solutions will focus on "conundrum alleviation" — Manning notes he'll also focus on health and wellness, including running marathons.
"I turned 63 on May 27, and I was born in 1956," he says. "I'm proud of the fact I'm not on one medication and next month I'm going to run the Marine Corps marathon."