Columbia City Council has a new second-in-command.
District 2 Councilman Ed McDowell was unanimously selected Jan. 21 to serve as the city's mayor pro-tem in 2020. It's a post that calls for McDowell to stand-in for Mayor Steve Benjamin when Benjamin is not present for Council meetings or other events in the city.
McDowell was recently sworn-in to begin his second term in Council's District 2, which is in the central and northern portions of the city and is highlighted by longstanding, mostly African American neighborhoods such as Martin Luther King, Celia Saxon, Edgewood, Waverly and Booker Washington Heights, among others. McDowell secured a second term after dispatching Catherine Bruce and Anna Fonseca in a November 2019 election.
McDowell's sliding into the de facto vice mayor slot is a shift in the makeup of City Council. For the last three years, veteran At-Large Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine — long Benjamin's top lieutenant — has served as mayor pro tem. Her reign in Council's second seat took on a slightly elevated look, as her recent time as mayor pro tem overlapped with Benjamin's ascension to leadership with the national U.S. Conference of Mayors, and she would appear in his stead when he was traveling out of town for events and conferences.
Devine — who has made no secret about the possibility that she might run for mayor in the future, possibly as soon as 2021 if Benjamin chooses not to seek a fourth term — made the motion to nominate McDowell for mayor pro-tem.
After being unanimously selected by his Council peers, McDowell expressed gratitude for Devine's years of service as council's second-in-command, nodding at her reputation as something of a dealmaker at City Hall.
"She has helped all of us sort of navigate through some troubled waters at times," McDowell said, looking at Devine. "We are appreciative of what you have done for us, the leadership and skills and the wheelhouse you bring to this table."
Council on Jan. 21 also made its committee assignments for 2020:
- The administrative policy committee will feature McDowell (chairman), Sam Davis and Howard Duvall.
- The arts and historic preservation committee will feature Will Brennan (chairman), Duvall and McDowell.
- The economic and community development committee will be comprised of Davis (chairman), Brennan and Devine.
- The economic development sub-committee will be Daniel Rickenmann (chairman), Devine and Duvall.
- The environment and infrastructure committee will be Devine (chairwoman), Brennan and Rickenmann.
- The technology committee will feature Duvall (chairman), Devine and Rickenmann.
- The public safety committee will be chaired by Rickenmann, with Davis and McDowell also being members.