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Power List 2020: The people who get stuff done in Columbia

This year’s list of the most powerful people in Columbia is a little different.

Well, our annual ranking is always a little different — many such newspaper lists don’t put arts leaders and event organizers on par with politicians and CEOs, but Free Times tries to present a fully rounded assembly of the folks who make this city go, in all the various ways that it does.

The circumstances we find ourselves in now, though, make this year more different than most. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the local economy, closed restaurants and erased much of the year’s event calendar. The ongoing protest movement against systemic racism and police brutality continues to shock the status quo.

As a result, the list has been solidly shuffled from 2019, with some high-placing newcomers that might not stick around for more than a year, and some previous inclusions that have risen or fallen with the tides of the times.

You may notice some ads congratulating the folks on this year’s Power List. Free Times‘ editorial staff settled on the rankings before any ads were sold, and purchasing an ad had zero effect on where anyone fell on the list or what we wrote about them.

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1. Jim Clyburn

1. Jim Clyburn ↑4

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn has long wielded influence in Columbia, in South Carolina, and up in Washington, D.C. Everyone knows that. He’s represented the Sixth Congressional District for 27 years, and has a hammerlock grip on his seat. He’s currently the U.S. House Majority Whip, and is the highest ranking African American member of Congress. And his World Famous Fish Fry is perhaps the South’s most significant see-and-be-seen political event. But, in 2020, Clyburn flexed his muscles as a political kingmaker in a most significant way, as he almost single-handedly raised Joe Biden’s presidential campaign from the dead. After the former vice president struggled mightily in the early primaries, Clyburn offered a passionate endorsement of Biden before the Feb. 29 South Carolina primary. Biden went on to win South Carolina in a landslide, and steamrolled his way to the Democratic nomination. Clyburn’s endorsement could very well have changed the course of history.

2. Henry McMaster ↑3

Many entries on this year’s Power List were hard to place. And the governor of South Carolina was one of the hardest. There’s no doubt that he’s wielded great power in 2020, enacting and retracting restrictions to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, rallying his accelerateSC task force to strategize ways to balance economic concerns with the public health, standing as the face of the Palmetto State’s coronavirus response during frequent press conferences. As case numbers continue to mount with many aspects of the state’s economy reopened, it remains to be seen how McMaster’s leadership will be remembered at the end of all this. But for now, he’s as powerful as he’s ever been — in Columbia and South Carolina at large.

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3. Steve Benjamin

3. Steve Benjamin ↓1

It’s unsurprising to find Benjamin once again high on this list. In this third term as Columbia’s mayor, he continues to be the straw that stirs the drink in Columbia city politics, while also maintaining a national profile through his involvement with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Democratic Party. (Admittedly, his enthusiastic endorsement of Mike Bloomberg for president was … curious.) But, in 2020, the mayor has also shown new levels of leadership in times of crisis. Specifically, during COVID-19, he kept the city one step ahead of the state, whether it was through pushing for stay at home measures, securing virus testing for city employees, putting in a citywide curfew, or establishing emergency funding for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. In a trying year for the Capital City, the mayor has been tireless.

4. Linda Bell NEW

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the state’s chief epidemiologist in the spotlight, a role the scientist does not relish. Bell, who’s worked at the state’s public health agency since 1993 and been in her current role since 2012, became known to the public through Gov. Henry McMaster’s televised news conferences since March on the evolving health crisis, doling out the latest stats and urging residents in a calm, even tone to practice good hygiene and social distancing. As McMaster has rolled back restrictions and case numbers have risen, Bell has been increasingly adamant that people also wear masks to stem the virus’ spread.

5. Dawn Staley ↑6

Dawn Staley can’t be stopped. Here’s a brief recap of the Gamecock women’s basketball coach’s last year: Staley led the team to a 32-1 record, a No. 1 ranking and an SEC Tournament championship on her way to taking home every major coach of the year award. If the NCAA tournament hadn’t been cancelled, many pundits thought the Gamecocks would’ve been in line for a Final Four finish, if not a second national championship. Beyond the team’s excellent season, Staley has wielded her increasingly influential Twitter presence to emerge as one of the city’s most visible advocates for racial justice.

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6. Leon Lott

6. Leon Lott ↓3

Richland County’s long-standing sheriff has as close to a vice grip on his office as an elected official can have. And he remains a charismatic political presence, and the area’s most visible law enforcement official. But recent protests against police brutality didn’t always show his leadership in the best light, as combined local forces, that included his officers, sought to quell sometimes violent demonstrations on May 30 and 31, unleashing rubber bullets and tear gas. And Live PD, the cable sensation that followed law enforcement officers on their beats, including Richland County Sheriff’s deputies, was canceled in the wake of the nationwide movement following the death of George Floyd, removing one of the chief spotlights for Lott and his department, and lending credence to those who criticized their involvement in the show.

7. Dick Harpootlian ↓6

He’s not exactly your typical freshman state senator. Harpootlian, the former Fifth Circuit solicitor, former Richland County Councilman and former state Democratic Party chairman, continues to hold an outsized presence in the Capital City, whether through his role as District 20’s senator or his position as a high-profile lawyer. He’s continued to raise hell in the last year, bringing to light the expensive perks and benefits received by Columbia’s airport commission and ruffling feathers when he engaged in what was referred to as a “profanity-laced outburst” with a legislative delegation staffer. The firebrand attorney did take at least one “L” earlier this year: His law firm’s effort to shut down longtime Five Points bar Group Therapy came up short, as a judge ruled that the watering hole could renew its licenses to sell booze.

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8. Teresa Wilson

8. Teresa Wilson ↑9

City manager Teresa Wilson’s job isn’t a walk in the park, even in the best of years. As the top bureaucrat on the City of Columbia’s staff, she oversees 2,300 employees and multiple departments, while also balancing the whims of a seven-member City Council that often has its own ideas about how the city should function. Through the course of her seven years as city manager, Wilson has proven adept at walking the line between captaining the city staff and implementing policy from Council. Now, during COVID-19, she has been essential in reimagining how the city does business in nearly real time. In a time of uncertainty, she has been rock steady.

9. Steve MacDougall ↑14

The Town of Lexington has been aggressively growing for quite a while now. Per census data, it had only 4,000 residents in 1990; by 2019, that had ballooned to more than 22,000. MacDougall, the former town councilman who has been mayor since 2013, has been a business-focused leader who has seen a number of initiatives come to fruition under his watch, including the revitalization of Main Street into an energetic mix of bars, restaurants and shops. The Icehouse Amphitheater has been a solid success, and a new pavilion is being built next to the amphitheater that will be home to a farmers’ market. Lexington is on the move under MacDougall’s leadership.

10. The Middletons NEW

It’s become clear that highlighting just Scott Middleton (a Next 50 inclusion last year) alone in this list is a no-go. Instead, it’s more apt to include the developer family as a singular unit. Scott and his kids, Sara and Greg, have jointly announced an upcoming mega brewery and entertainment center on North Main Street, were approached and ultimately declined developing a restaurant in the BullStreet District, and continue to dominate the 1600 Main Street block with a variety of restaurants and entertainment venues including Main Course and The Grand bowling alley bar. Last year, the family made waves beyond the business world, when Sara nearly unseated Columbia City Council member Howard Duvall, who bested her by about two percent in a runoff.

11. Bobby Williams NEW

Gov. Henry McMaster has a soft spot for Lizard’s Thicket, Columbia’s down-home diner chain where Jell-O and kale salad share space on the vegetable menu. So it helped when restaurants needed a plan to reopen after closing in the COVID-19 outbreak, that Thicket boss Bobby Williams, also the chair of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, joined the governor’s accelerateSC task force and pitched a detailed, phased plan developed by the trade group to bring back customers. The plan that included seating limitations gave the governor confidence to lift the state’s dining ban.

12. Bob Caslen NEW

The new University of South Carolina president worked hard to calm critics who felt he was hired because of pressure from the governor, even though the retired West Point superintendent lacked the higher education experience of his predecessors in Columbia. Caslen has turned his reputation around by involving faculty in the search for a new provost, giving professors their first raise in more than a decade, and acting swiftly to close the campus when the coronavirus started spreading. Recently, he has led the charge seeking to remove the name of a doctor who experimented on slaves from a dorm.

13. Skip Holbrook ↓5

As Columbia’s police chief for more than six years, Holbrook has, for the most part, brought a steady hand to a position that, prior to his arrival from West Virginia, had seen an unrelenting revolving door of permanent or interim chiefs. He’s worked collaboratively with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and secured federal funding for various initiatives in an effort to curb gun violence in North Columbia. However, his department has recently seen — and likely will continue to see — heightened scrutiny in a time when many are calling for racial justice and law enforcement reforms following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.

14. Trey Walker NEW

Casual observers of S.C. politics will recall Trey Walker, Gov. Henry McMaster’s chief of staff, as the partisan hack who helped stage USC’s controversial hiring of President Robert Caslen. But McMaster’s right hand man has built up a reputation as the power behind the throne in Statehouse circles. “The Treyboy,” as some affectionately call him, is the state’s highest-paid and longest-serving chief of staff in recent memory. His hard-charging tactics, perceived influence over McMaster and uncontrollable ego have earned another nickname: “Governor Walker.”

15. Roslyn Artis ↑6

Artis, Benedict College’s president, walked a tightrope when she agreed to let the historically Black school host a criminal justice forum featuring President Donald Trump and 2020 Democratic hopefuls last October. Some students and alumni were upset. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the race’s only HBCU graduate, backed out. But Artis managed to hold everything together, and her school shined in the national spotlight. She also took part in McMaster’s coronavirus recovery task force.

16. Mark O’Halla ↑27

Prisma Health, the Columbia region’s largest medical provider, keeps getting larger. O’Halla, Prisma’s CEO based in Greenville, soon will start running hospitals belonging to Providence Health in Columbia and KershawHealth in Camden. That outsized influence will have an impact on medical care for thousands in the Midlands (with Lexington Medical as Primsa’s sole competitor) and many more who will likely lose their jobs when operations merge.

17. Bakari Sellers ↑7

Though many are waiting for the former state lawmaker to run for congress whenever Jim Clyburn retires, Sellers is keeping busy. He has an ongoing commentator gig with CNN, and has plenty to talk about, from the 2020 election to George Floyd. He released a memoir, My Vanishing Country, that hit The New York Times bestseller list. And he won fans in Five Points by beating back an effort to keep iconic campus bar Group Therapy from renewing its liquor license. (As a bonus, he would earn a few Best Of Columbia votes for Best Pandemic Hair and Beard if the category existed.)

18. Bill Stangler ↓9

In recent years, Columbia seems to have, at long last, realized the potential of the area’s three main rivers — the Saluda, the Broad and the Congaree — as a key resource for the Midlands. Stangler leads Congaree Riverkeeper, the nonprofit that watches over and advocates for the area’s rivers and other waterways. The organization has taken private utility companies to court over river pollution, kept annual close tabs on the sewage spills from local governments and private entities, led numerous litter cleanups along the banks of area rivers, and is a key player in an initiative that provides weekly river swimming advisories during the summer months.

[Editor's Note: After Free Times' editorial team settled on this year's Power List, and before we could do significant reporting prior to putting this week's issue to press, a recently terminated employee lobbed a series of allegations at Stangler and the Riverkeeper organization. You can read about them in the story we published on June 23. How the situation develops will impact Stangler's inclusion on next year's list.]

19. Ray Tanner ↓7

Just how powerful is the athletic director of USC? Yes, Gamecock sports are one of the most dominant cultural forces in Columbia, and yes, the school’s football games are the biggest events in town. But while women’s basketball has become a force, football is mired in mediocrity and men’s basketball could soon be hit with damaging NCAA punishments. And how powerful is an athletic director when there’s a pandemic calling into question whether 2020 and 2021 seasons will actually happen? Consider this entry a “wait and see” proposition.

20. Howard Duvall ↑7

Now in his second term as an at-large Columbia City Councilman, Duvall — who was re-elected in November despite a furious challenge from businesswoman Sarah Middleton — continues to be one of city government’s more pragmatic leaders. The former longtime director of the state Municipal Association, Duvall has been a key leader in the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, advocating for early stay at home orders and a curfew, and pushing for a measure that would make mask-wearing mandatory in the city. And, while mileage certainly varies on this position, he also has been at the forefront of a push for changes to the late-night party culture in Five Points in recent years.

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21. Tameika Isaac Devine

21. Tameika Isaac Devine ↓14

Though she is no longer Columbia’s mayor pro tem, longtime at-large City Councilwoman Devine still wields considerable influence in the Capital City. She’s in her fifth term on Council, and recently took on leadership of the city’s affordable housing task force. She’s widely seen as a key ally to Mayor Steve Benjamin, and she’s made no secrets about her own desire to run for mayor in the future. Devine also is a public speaker, life coach and author, and is part of a Columbia political power couple with husband Jamie, who chairs the Richland One school board. Her endorsement is often sought in various political races in the Midlands.

22. Melanie Huggins ↓12

As executive director of Richland County’s surprisingly progressive library system, Huggins has done a lot. She’s overseen a $59 million effort to enhance 11 existing library facilities along with the addition of two new branches. And while most of the library’s programs are on pause due to COVID-19, Huggins recently put another feather in her cap — the national Public Library Association recently elected her as its 2021-2022 president.

23. Lee Snelgrove ↓5

The executive director of the city-backed nonprofit One Columbia for Arts & Culture, Snelgrove is tasked with supporting creatives to help bolster the local economy. And he’s done as well as anyone could expect with the challenges of COVID-19, continuing to unveil new public art installations, spearheading virtual and online outlets for programming, and helping figure out ways to get artists money to subsist when traditional work is hard to come by.

24. Carl Blackstone ↓9

The president and CEO of the Columbia Chamber takes a slight tumble compared to last year’s top 20 ranking. But in a year when COVID-19 decimated the economy, Blackstone’s organization remains important, and the chamber has (and continues to) offer up a bevy of resources for local businesses. Meanwhile, the group moved its headquarters to Main Street, a decidedly more chamber-esque location. Blackstone himself remains a well-connected leader, as he is the former manager of government relations at the state Chamber of Commerce and was a senior legislative advisor to Gov. Mark Sanford.

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25. Todd Rutherford (with 26. Lawrence Nathaniel behind him)

25. Todd Rutherford ↑17

The endlessly quotable Rutherford has never had trouble generating headlines in Columbia. A prominent attorney in the Capital City, the Democratic state representative also is the House minority leader. But he’s also taken on a key role amidst the recent protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. He delivered a fiery speech at a massive rally and march at the Statehouse on May 30, and when activists held another march several days later and delivered a list of police reform demands to lawmakers, it was Rutherford who received them on the Statehouse steps, and said the demands should have gone even further.

26. Lawrence Nathaniel NEW

As the lead organizer of I Can’t Breathe South Carolina, Nathaniel has been a driving force in the protests that have swept through Columbia following the death of George Floyd during a confrontation with Minneapolis police when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. After turning destructive in the evening on May 30, the demonstrations have continued pretty much daily in peaceful fashion, attracting much local attention to issues of systemic racism and police brutality. Even if the protests soon peter out, Nathaniel will have had an incredible influence on Columbia’s trajectory in 2020.

27. Lindsey Graham ↓9

As the most visible of South Carolina’s two U.S. Senators, Graham remains an omnipresent topic of conversation in Columbia, most of it zeroing in on the flip-flopped relationship the now Trump-positive politician has had with our current president. Now, he’s in an incredibly tight race for re-election with Jaime Harrison, casting doubt on what his influence will be in the future.

28. Darrell Jackson ↑1

The Democratic state senator from Hopkins hasn’t been as vocal as in years past, but he still holds considerable influence, both as pastor of one of South Carolina’s largest Black churches and one of the Senate’s longest-serving members. The 28-year incumbent initially backed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential bid, becoming a co-chair of her campaign in the Palmetto State. After she dropped out in mid-December, Jackson became a top endorser of Vice President Joe Biden ahead of South Carolina’s presidential primary.

29. Bobby Hitt ↓10

The pandemic might have slowed Hitt’s main job as the state’s economic development recruiter, but he played a key role in restarting the state’s economy. Hitt was a leader on the governor’s recovery task force. The former BMW executive worked closely with some of the state’s biggest manufacturers on reopening their plants with new safety rules.

30. Jeff March ↓4

South Carolina Pride had its June Outfest scrubbed by COVID-19, and whether its hugely popular fall festival and parade will happen (and what it will look like if it does) remains very much in doubt. But the organization is still doing its job in keeping LGTBQ issues at the foreground of political conversations, especially in Columbia, and the group’s president remains instrumental in maintaining that presence.

31. Emile DeFelice ↑5

One could argue that COVID-19’s multi-month shuttering of Soda City Market might justify a tumble for founder DeFelice, but the way he and the city have worked to find a way to bring it back emphasizes how prized the popular Saturday happening has become. The market’s slated to return at the end of the month, a clear victory for DeFelice, who had attempted various smaller neighborhood versions that were squashed earlier in the pandemic.

32. Phill Blair ↑6

The longtime co-owner of The Whig, the city’s trademark dive bar, Blair also helps organize numerous popular events, like Arts & Draughts at the Columbia Museum of Art and the annual Jam Room Music Festival. And while those events are on hold due to the ongoing pandemic, he’s extended his reach as a bar owner to West Columbia, where he’s opened the already bustling WECO Bottle and Biergarten.

33. Fat Rat da Czar ↓11

2020 was looking to be the year, or at least a big year, for Fat Rat da Czar and all that the local rapper, producer and leader of Love, Peace & Hip-Hop and its annual Hip-Hop Family Day block party has done for Columbia. Following a 2019 that brought two well-received records, one a double album that assembled much of South Carolina’s best talent to pay tribute to the state’s underrated hip-hop history, he curated an exhibit showcasing that history at the Columbia Museum of Art and booked the famed Rakim for his community-boosting festival. COVID-19 put Hip-Hop Family Day on hold, but the momentum Fat Rat has helped generate for Soda City hip-hop remains.

34. Matt Kennell ↑3

While Columbia hasn’t seen quite as many highlight-worthy downtown improvements in this last year, things seem to be humming along nicely nevertheless. Businesses, apartments and hotels continue to come to the district and residents continue to vote for the Main Street updates as the biggest improvement in Columbia on an almost yearly basis in Free Times‘ Best Of Columbia poll. Kennell, the president and CEO of City Center Partnership, the downtown property owners group, oversees much of that progress.

35. Tem Miles NEW

Momentum has been gaining in West Columbia for quite a while now, and Tem Miles has been right in the middle of it through his roles in city government. Miles, an attorney who was a city councilman for six years, was elected West Columbia’s mayor in November. He’s now leading a city that has an emerging restaurant and bar scene just west of the Gervais Street Bridge, and has recently added an art park, a market and additional public parking along Meeting Street. Things are happening across the river, and Miles is right there in the mix.

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36. Kristian Niemi

36. Kristian Niemi NEW

The restaurateur and chef has emerged as one of the restaurant scene’s loudest voices of reason during COVID-19. Through a series of videos on the social media pages for his restaurants Bourbon and Black Rooster, Niemi is continuously updating customers on the state of his closures and gives clear reasoning for not joining the slew of reopenings. Never one to shy from an interview with the local press, Niemi has managed to stay in the public consciousness more than many other food scene players.

37. Katrina Shealy ↓6

State Sen. Katrina Shealy’s colleagues have nicknamed her “the children’s senator,” a term she’s embraced as a champion of child protection issues, most notably leading the years-long effort to overhaul the Department of Social Services. The Lexington Republican also holds sway as chairwoman of the Senate Family and Veterans’ Services Committee. She is the only female committee chair.

38. Alan Wilson ↑2

South Carolina’s top prosecutor remains feisty in this third term. The state attorney general from Lexington sued Columbia after the city refused to repeal laws that prohibit firearms possession within 1,000 feet of a school and allow seizing guns from people under protection orders. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin has said he will argue personally against Wilson when the dispute reaches the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Wilson’s office made sure cities and counties understood that only the governor can issue stay at home orders after Columbia and Charleston got ahead of McMaster during the pandemic.

39. Sid Kenyon ↓11

Colonial Life Arena has been on quite a roll when it comes to big concerts — Post Malone, KISS, Ariana Grande, Carrie Underwood, Trey Songz, Hootie & the Blowfish and more have played the venue in the last year, and that’s with losing most of the last three months to COVID-19. So while the calendar is halted for now, and the pandemic is rewriting how the concert industry will look when things get going again, Colonial Life and its general manager seems as ready as any to get back in stride.

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40. Jaime Harrison

40. Jaime Harrison NEW

Next year, it would seem to be a sure thing that either Harrison or Lindsey Graham won’t be on this list. For now, the Democratic upstart is giving Graham everything he wants and more in his bid to oust the longtime U.S. senator.

41. Seth Rose ↓11

After a successful first year at the Statehouse, the Democratic state representative from Columbia continues his willingness to lead by pledging to work on removing the statue of late former Gov. Ben Tillman, an avowed white supremacist, from the Statehouse grounds.

42. JoAnn Turnquist NEW

Earlier this year, the South Carolina Community Loan Fund released a study that found that without further funding, 54 percent of nonprofit organizations would run out of money by the end of June, and 85 percent would be depleted by September. And the Central Carolina Community Foundation, led by Turnquist, has been instrumental in getting direly needed money to organizations struggling during COVID-19. And despite not being able to host anything in the way of physical events to promote it, the organization’s annual fundraising drive, Midlands Gives, set a new record by bringing in $3,321,683 with more than 400 organizations participating.

43. Rhonda Hunsinger NEW

Hunsinger is the executive director of the South Carolina Philharmonic, which has set a winning example for other local arts organizations, as it has utilized various virtual means — ranging from new performances to releasing archival material — to engage with its audience during COVID-19.

44. Robert Hughes NEW

Robert Hughes expected that 2020 would be the year when many more Columbians came to the BullStreet District, the redevelopment project led by his family’s company. Instead, COVID-19 happened. Hughes emphasizes that work there has continued, including the completion of the yet-to-open REI store, and the revamped district is still adding attractions and residents.

45. Lou Kennedy NEW

The CEO of Nephron Pharmaceuticals (and a leading USC donor) is becoming a stronger voice in the community by spearheading business groups, offering summer jobs to hundreds of teachers and even making hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus-induced shortage.

46. Charles Jackson ↑2

Brookland Baptist Church has, through the years, become a powerhouse over in West Columbia, and Jackson, its senior pastor, has been integral in the church’s rise. The church has more than 8,000 members, a 68,000-square-foot community center and its own credit union. And, in 2020, it once again flexed its muscles as a go-to stop for Democratic presidential hopefuls. If you’re serious about the vote in South Carolina, you make a stop at Brookland Baptist.

47. Micah Caskey NEW

State Rep. Micah Caskey, a Marine veteran and former prosecutor, is unafraid to speak his mind, even if it means being critical of his fellow Republicans. The two-term incumbent from West Columbia sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee. He’s also an outspoken member of the House Oversight panel that’s been reviewing the state’s prisons agency since the 2018 deadly prison riot at Lee Correctional.

48. Bill Ellen ↓7

As the chief of Experience Columbia, the organization that operates the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and promotes regional tourism, Ellen will play a huge role in trying to win back business lost in the pandemic, especially with several new hotels planned. What’s unclear is how the coronavirus will hurt his efforts to win public money to expand the undersized convention center.

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49. Will Muschamp

49. Will Muschamp ↓10

Look, this is Columbia. And, in Columbia, the head football coach at the University of South Carolina will always wield a great deal of influence in town. But there’s a reason Muschamp tumbled down this year’s list. After leading the Gamecocks to bowl games in his first three seasons at the helm, Muschamp and his squad had a disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2019. Muschamp has retooled much of his assistant coaching staff for the coming season (assuming there is an upcoming season amid COVID-19), and he’ll likely need to at least get back to bowl eligibility if he wants to hold on to his gig.

50. Bobby Donaldson ↓3

Donaldson is the director of the Center for Civil Rights History and Research at USC, and one of the most revered historians in the Southeast. He is the lead scholar for Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters, an initiative that seeks to illuminate the long struggle for civil rights and social justice in the Capital City. He has served as a consultant on numerous projects dealing with civil rights, including museum exhibitions, documentaries, and historic preservation projects. Donaldson’s voice is an important one in Columbia, and will continue to be as the struggle for racial justice continues.


The Next 50

Here’s an unranked, alphabetical list of 50 other people who are powerful in Columbia.

Kassy Alia — CEO and founder, Serve and Connect

John Andoh — executive director, The COMET

Todd Augsburger — president and CEO, Lexington Medical Center

Jeff Ayers — executive director and board chair, SC Equality

Luther Battiste — attorney, Johnson, Toal & Battiste

Donald Beatty — chief justice, S.C. Supreme Court

Sue Berkowitz — director, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Beth Bernstein —S.C. House member

Vanessa Bialobreski — founder/partner and director of sales and marketing, F2T Productions, Management and Catering

Caitlin Bright — executive director, Tapp’s Outpost

Tracie Broom & Debi Schadel — owners, Flock + Rally, public relations firm

Richard Burts — owner, 701 Whaley

Raj Champaneri — CEO, Lexington Hospitality

Bob Coble — attorney, Nexsen Pruet; former Columbia mayor

Kristin Cobb — executive director, Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College

Rosie Craig — developer and historic preservationist, R. MacFarlane Craig Historic Preservation

Baron Davis — superintendent, Richland School District 2

Sam Davis — Columbia City Council member

Fred Delk — executive director, Columbia Development Corportation

Don and Carol Fowler — prominent Democrats

Tim Gardner — owner, Lula Drake Wine Parlour

Byron Gipson — 5th Circuit Solicitor

Henry Griffin — chef, Griffin Chophouse

Lisa W. Hailey — president and CEO, EdVenture

Aundrai Holloman — executive director, Township Auditorium

Chip Jackson — Richland County Council

John Katz — president, Columbia Fireflies

Bill Kirkland — director, University of South Carolina Office of Economic Engagement

Paul Livingston — Richland County Council member

Amanda Loveday — COO, NP Strategy

Frank Martin — head coach, University of South Carolina men’s basketball

Sean McCrossin — owner, Drip, Drip on Main and Scoopy Doo

Ed McDowell — Columbia City Council member

Bob Mundy — founder, Estates and Co.

Stewart Mungo — chairman, Mungo Homes

Sabrina Odom — executive director, North Columbia Business Association

David Pankau — CEO, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Elise Partin — mayor, Cayce

Ben Rex — president, Cyberwoven

Antjuan Seawright — founder and CEO, Blueprint Strategy

Diane Sumpter — founder, president and CEO, DESA, Inc.

Wim Roefs — co-founder and board chair, 701 Center for Contemporary Art

Tommy Stringfellow — CEO, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Joe Taylor — influential developer

Jean Toal — former chief justice, South Carolina Supreme Court

Mike Tourville — owner, River Rat Brewery

Della Watkins — executive director, Columbia Museum of Art

Gary Watts — Richland County coroner

Tige Watts — president, Campaign Research + Strategy

Joe Wilson — U.S. House of Representatives

Seanna Adcox, David Clarey, Mike Fitts, Jordan Lawrence, Andy Shain, Chris Trainor and Avery G. Wilks contributed to this cover package.

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