You have permission to edit this article.

Power Issue 2016: Who Has Clout in Columbia

  • Updated
Power Issue 2016: Who Has Clout in Columbia


Cover illustration by Dre Lopez | Photos by John Carlos

Upon its launch in 2012, the Free Times 50 power list quickly became one of our most popular features. It seeks to answer a simple question: Who runs Columbia? Or, more specifically, who gets things done?

Holding political office doesn’t necessarily get a person a spot on the list; there are plenty of politicians who don’t have much of an impact on the city. Money doesn’t buy you a spot, either: Plenty of people have money, but don’t use it to effect change in Columbia. And while Columbia is undoubtedly full of powerful attorneys and developers, we try to take a broader look at the realms of power, from the arts and music to tourism and public safety.

Let us know what we got right, what we got wrong and who we missed: Email

Jordan Lawrence, Eva Moore, Andy Shain and Chris Trainor contributed to this report.

No. 1: Gov. Nikki Haley

1. Nikki Haley ?2

The governor has had a hell of a year. First she helped bring the state together after last year’s massacre at a historic black Charleston church; then, she deftly used the tragedy to push for something she’d never previously been able to even admit she wanted: taking the Confederate flag off the State House grounds. She kept a steady hand as the state recovered from historic flooding later that same year. And the Republican Party invited her to give the response to Obama’s final State of the Union, where she delivered some gentle but pointed, party-approved jabs at Donald Trump. Her criticism of Trump, now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, may have hurt her near-term prospects of holding higher office, but it likely won’t hurt her standing with national GOP insiders.

2. Harris Pastides ?5

The University of South Carolina — and its influence — continues to expand. Just look west of Assembly between Blossom and Pendleton: a new alumni center, six new student apartment complexes and the continuing makeover of Greene Street near the Darla Moore School of Business and Colonial Life Arena. USC has added a research office building across from the Strom, and has big plans to move its medical school next to Palmetto Health Richland and rehab the entire south side of campus. Little of this would be possible without the leadership of President Harris Pastides. The man behind $1 billion-plus in campus development since taking over the state’s flagship school in 2008 is set to earn more than $1 million next year. But the time is coming sooner than later for USC trustees to consider life without the 62-year-old New York native in the Osborne Administration building.

3. Leon Lott ?2

For two decades, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has been the county’s top lawman — and perhaps its most recognizable elected official. As Free Times went to press, Lott was vying to keep his run in office going — but the fact that Democratic challenger James Flowers is only the second primary foe Lott has had since 1996 speaks volumes about his enduring relationship with residents and voters. The sheriff was seemingly omnipresent during the devastating flood last October, and his willingness to collaborate during that time with the Columbia Police Department, Columbia Fire Department and other elected officials and entities bucked the oft-repeated accusation that Lott and the sheriff’s department don’t play well with others.

4. Steve Benjamin ?3

A year ago, Mayor Benjamin was at the top of the Free Times power list. One of the chief reasons for the drop is that the two candidates Columbia’s mayor endorsed in last fall’s City Council races — at-large candidate Andy Smith and District 2 hopeful Aaron Bishop — both lost their elections. Nevertheless, Benjamin remains heavily influential in Columbia. The Capital City has seen a student housing boom under his watch, Main Street’s revitalization continues at a steady clip and, even with the makeup of City Council having changed, he still wins more battles than not at City Hall. He’s also on the board of the African-American Mayors Association and has been featured prominently in campaign material for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

5. Jason Freier ?1

Spirit Communications Park is no longer just a thought or a plan or a political talking point. It’s here. It’s a state-of-the-art, 10,000-capacity minor league baseball stadium that stands as the anchor of what will be the Commons at BullStreet development. The Hardball Capital CEO convinced the city he would bring professional baseball back to Columbia if the city would fund most of the new $37-million stadium. He delivered on that promise, bringing in the Class A Columbia Fireflies, a New York Mets affiliate. Reviews of the stadium have been stellar, as Ballpark Digest ranks it as the third best park in Low-A minor league ball. Attendance also has been solid, as the Fireflies have drawn an average of 3,800 fans per game so far this season, good for fifth in the 14-team South Atlantic League.

6. Bill Stangler NEW

It seems as if Columbia is finally starting to realize the asset it has in the three rivers — the Broad, the Saluda and the Congaree — that flow through the city. As such, the work of Stangler seems more important than ever. Stangler leads the nonprofit Congaree Riverkeeper and is the main watchdog for the area’s rivers. In the last year he has taken on documented polluter Carolina Water Service in federal court; discovered and reported, and thus helped stop, a multimillion-gallon sewage spill pouring from a sewer pipe on Stoops Creek; and kept a constant eye on the City of Columbia’s progress in complying with federal mandates to repair its decrepit wastewater system. And he does it all as nearly a one-man show, as he is the only full-time employee of Congaree Riverkeeper.

7. Skip Holbrook ?6

It should come as no surprise that Holbrook climbed into the top 10 on this year’s list. Just more than two years into his gig as the chief of the Columbia Police Department, Holbrook has made the transition from simply being a steadying hand — Columbia had 10 full-time, acting or interim chiefs in 10 years prior to his 2014 arrival — to being someone who might actually bring about some real reforms at the police department. The city’s officers are now outfitted with body cameras, the police department’s use of force against suspects has dropped each of the last two years and the chief publishes an exhaustive “warts-and-all” internal affairs report each spring. Under Holbrook’s watch, CPD also recently was singled out as one of a handful of agencies in America that is excelling in adopting the recommendations of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

8. Alan Wilson ?6

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. (Well, in this case the mighty have fallen six spots since last year.) Once a likely candidate for governor, Wilson lost a bit of his sheen when he lashed out at David Pascoe, attempting to fire the Orangeburg solicitor whom he’d named special prosecutor in a State House corruption probe. (The state Supreme Court takes up that issue June 16.) That said, Wilson is still a key state attorney general for Republicans, as he continues to jab the federal government over everything from clean water to transgender people’s use of the bathroom. He’s also taken human trafficking very seriously, setting up a task force and helping strengthen state laws.

9. David Pascoe NEW

The 1st circuit solicitor holds the future of the State House in his office. He’s spearheading a legal battle over how much control he assumed over the S.C. Attorney General’s investigation into possible political corruption in the General Assembly. Pascoe thinks it’s all his — and if the S.C. Supreme Court agrees with him, The Citadel grad could disrupt a lot of political careers. The attention could fuel Pascoe’s own political ambitions. Consider that he hosted an oyster roast that attracted top 2016 Dem hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Pascoe will either go down as the prosecutor who got Lost Trust II going or overstepped his authority. Stay tuned.

10. Jim Clyburn ?1

Democrats hold little power across South Carolina, but with a Democrat in the White House, Columbia congressman can bring a lot to the state. Clyburn is the third-ranking Democrat in the House, giving him a say in policy matters, such as fighting to remove the Confederate flag from a chapel at The Citadel. His support of Hillary Clinton in the presidential race was crucial after he remained neutral in the 2008 race, earning a late-election night blessing out by former President Bill Clinton when his wife lost the South Carolina primary to Barack Obama.

No. 11: Christy Hall

11. Christy Hall NEW

South Carolina’s transportation secretary is probably the most popular agency head among lawmakers. She’s respected, having risen through the ranks and eschewing politics in the Legislature. Hall is responsive, getting lawmakers data they request. While the roads funding debate was never easy during the past session, concerns about Hall’s leadership and vision were never an issue. She joined Gov. Haley in providing a steady hand during the October flood. Hall even (technically) lost her job for a few hours this year when the S.C. Supreme Court ruled the governor should not have appointed her. The state transportation commission voted her back in without a fuss.

No. 12: Rick Reames

12. Rick Reames NEW

If you had spotted Rick Reames’ name on this list a year ago, your reaction might have been, “Wait, who?” However, since then the South Carolina Department of Revenue director has been making waves on a number of fronts. Most visibly, Reames has been at the forefront of his agency’s probe of the Richland County Transportation Penny Tax program. Reames has said he’s concerned about possible public corruption in the program and, as Free Times went to press this week, DOR was ready to withhold penny tax funds from the county until it comes into compliance. But Reames and DOR have flexed their muscle beyond just the penny tax. For example, this spring the department arrested 30 Boeing workers in the Charleston area who allegedly failed to pay their state income taxes. His office has also ramped up its public relations efforts, from publicizing post-flood tax relief to keeping the public up-to-date on who’s in trouble for tax evasion.

13. Bobby Hitt ?1

It’s become a common sight in South Carolina: Gov. Nikki Haley standing at a podium or microphone in one of the state’s 46 counties, heralding the coming of another industrial enterprise to South Carolina. If you’ve witnessed that scene, you’ve likely also noticed the bearded man with the Cheshire grin who is always standing at Haley’s side during those announcements. That’s state Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt, and he’s been critical in helping secure economic development announcements in the Palmetto State. Since becoming secretary in 2011, Hitt has helped bring more than 86,000 new jobs and $23 billion in capital investment. The former BMW executive and newsman recently helped Richland County — which has struggled to get major industrial announcements — land a $300 million, 400-job commitment from fiberglass manufacturer China Jushi, which plans to open in 2018.

14. Lee Bright ?12

Yes, he lives in the Upstate, not the Midlands, but state Sen. Lee Bright wields an uncanny amount of power in Columbia because he’s so damn busy coming up with terrible ideas — and defending them at great length. Last year, during the State House debate over removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, he called the effort a “Stalinist purge” and went on a rant about gay rights on the Senate floor. This year, he proposed a bill to monitor refugees who settle in the state, a version of which actually passed the Senate. And finally, after North Carolina passed a bill that would require transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate, Bright introduced a South Carolina version. The legislature killed the bill, but not before the state got another round of bad national press, courtesy of our nuttiest senator.

15. The Quinns ?1

Richard Quinn continues to run a powerful Columbia political consulting firm with clients from Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to Attorney General Alan Wilson. While he might not have backed a winner in the 2016 Republican presidential race (he did work for Lindsey Graham and a pro-Jeb Bush PAC), Richard Quinn continues to wield influence in state politics with his ties to a university president, College of Charleston’s Glenn McConnell, and possible gubernatorial hopefuls, including Columbia businessman Bill Stern. His son, Rick, remains an influential Republican House member from Lexington County, who worked on a late-night compromise to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds last year. The pair has received some scrutiny in recent months after their names appeared in a state law enforcement report on potential political corruption. The report raised questions about Rick Quinn’s campaign hiring Richard Quinn’s political firm, but opinions from the House Ethics Committee and state AG’s office said the practice was legal, and no charges have been filed.

16. John Crangle NEW

In a recent interview with Free Times, state Sen. John Courson called Crangle “the conscience of South Carolina” — and if there’s ever a state that needed Jiminy Cricket sitting on its shoulder, this is it. Crangle, the longtime director of the state chapter of Common Cause, was lobbying for open, ethical government 20 years ago, when the FBI nabbed dozens of lawmakers and State House insiders on bribery and corruption charges in Operation Lost Trust — and he’s still lobbying for it today. (In fact, he just published a 600-page book on Operation Lost Trust.) Crangle also knows how the media works, and he makes it work to his advantage: When he’s got an idea, a hunch or just a bee in his bonnet, you can bet the top reporters in the state are going to hear about it — and many of them are going to write stories about it, too. Between open government attorney Jay Bender’s retirement earlier this year, and Crangle’s pending retirement at the end of 2016, South Carolina is about to be much worse off when it comes to transparency.

17. Hugh Leatherman NEW

How powerful is the Florence Republican? Gov. Haley put a bull’s eye on Leatherman for slowing transportation and ethics reforms. She backed one of his opponents in the GOP primary, while a pro-Haley political group bashed him with ads. But Leatherman had a $1.5 million war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements to fend off the attacks. No one in the Legislature holds more influence. The Florence Republican leads the state Senate, the Senate’s budget-writing committee, a legislative panel that approves spending on major state building projects, another panel that weighs salaries for state agency head and sits on a committee that decides on funding major road construction projects. It’s good to be the king.

18. Jay Lucas ?14

The House Speaker was able to take the high road during the 2016 session while the Senate slow-walked debate on roads funding and ethics reform bills the House passed a year ago. (Roads funding passed after the Darlington Republican took to the floor to admonish the Senate.) And the Senate finally approved a measure usually backed only by the House to shorten the six-month session. Lucas watched as his potential rivals for Speaker either decided not to seek re-election to their seats (State Rep. Kenny Bingham) or were mentioned in a state law enforcement report on potential political corruption (Rep. Jim Merrill, though legal opinions found the accusations against him did not violate state law.) Not a bad rookie session as House boss for the movie buff. He falls this year only because all eyes were on the Senate, not the House.

19. Satch Krantz ?1

As director since 1976, Krantz has led efforts to make Riverbanks Zoo and Garden the largest tourist attraction in the city and the state — and to make it basically untouchable politically. Lately, with its ongoing $40 million expansion and renovation, the zoo is becoming something more akin to an adventure destination, with not just new animal exhibits (sea lions!) but Waterfall Junction, a three-acre interactive children’s park. Krantz is also a national leader in his field, having served as president of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and the World Zoo Organization.

20. JoAnn Turnquist ?3

As CEO of the Central Carolina Community Foundation, Turnquist continues to work towards making Columbia a more engaged, philanthropic city. In addition to the Midlands Gives crowdfunding initiative, which raised over $1.6 million in donations in 2016, the foundation helped fund What’s Next Midlands, a place where people can bandy about their ideas for making Columbia a more attractive place to live. Plans for executing the two most popular ideas are already underway — continued proof of Turnquist’s ability to get things done in the Capital City.

21. Matt Moore NEW

The head of the South Carolina Republican Party tried to keep Donald Trump in line. First was requiring presidential candidates sign a pledge to support the GOP nominee in order to get on the Palmetto State ballot — preventing a possible third-party run. Then he joined Gov. Nikki Haley and other Republicans in admonishing the New York tycoon for suggesting a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country. Moore is crucial to keeping South Carolina’s spot as an early presidential primary state. And he might have a better chance to do that if he can build support to become the next Republican National Committee chairman.

No. 22: Andy Smith

22. Andy Smith ?12

Yes, Free Times is aware that Smith actually lost last year’s hotly contested race for an at-large spot on Columbia City Council. But in his campaign, the executive director of the Nickelodeon Theatre — a venue more vibrant than ever since adding a second screen in 2015 — brought new visibility to arts initiatives in the city, particularly the ones put on by his own organization — including the Indie Grits festival, the film-and-more extravaganza that hit 2016 with what was roundly heralded as its best outing yet.

23. Bakari Sellers NEW

In 2006, Sellers became the youngest African American elected official in history when he joined South Carolina’s House of Representatives. And despite suffering a loss in his bid for the lieutenant governor position in 2014, he continues to be active as a local attorney for the Strom Law Firm and nationally as a contributor for CNN. He was a key supporter of Hillary Clinton as an honorary national co-chairman for the “Ready for Hillary” Millennial Council, and he’s continued to be a visible supporter of the likely Democratic nominee.

24. Teresa Wilson ?8

Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson has the unenviable task of overseeing more than 2,200 employees in the state’s Capital City, while at the same time balancing the whims of a seven-member City Council full of big personalities that are often at odds with one another. All things considered, she handles it with aplomb. Wilson was a steadying presence in the city during last October’s floods, and, perhaps most notably, under her watch the city has gotten its financial house in order. For the last two years, the city has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association, a citation it had not earned since 2005.

25. Darrell Jackson ?2

The powerful Democratic state senator who pastors Columbia’s largest megachurch was a strong voice for Hillary Clinton in her second presidential bid. Jackson supported her 2008 run over Barack Obama, who would win South Carolina en route to become the nation’s first African-American president. This time, backed with a 86-14 percent margin in the black vote, Clinton beat Bernie Sanders handily in February on her path to becoming the presumptive nominee.

26. Dawn Staley ?3

As University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach, Staley has built something of a juggernaut in Columbia. On the court, her teams have had a level of sustained success not previously seen in women’s hoops at USC. The Gamecocks went 33-2 in 2015-16, winning the SEC regular season title for the third consecutive year and the SEC tournament crown for the second year in a row. Alas, Staley’s 2015-16 crew failed to repeat its NCAA Final Four performance from 2014-15, falling in the Sweet 16 this go-around. Nevertheless, Staley’s program has a tremendous box office following, leading the nation in attendance in 2015-16 with an average of more than 14,300 fans per game. Through force of sheer will, Staley has made women’s basketball a thing in the Capital City. She’s also a big personality around town, and helps underprivileged kids through the Dawn Staley Foundation.

No. 27: Ed McDowell

27. Ed McDowell NEW

When he was elected to the District 2 seat on Columbia City Council last fall, McDowell promised to be an independent voice on seven-member body. So far, the Methodist minister has proven to be just that. On a Council that is typically divided up into two camps (Team Steve Benjamin and Team Leona Plaugh), McDowell doesn’t seem to have an allegiance to either camp, making him a true swing vote. Plus, he’s also proven to be dogged when an issue gets under his skin. For example, recently the city’s animal shelter was set to get an additional $300,000 in the 2017 budget. McDowell didn’t like that, and was vocal about it, pushing until the number was cut in half. The magniloquent minister could prove to be an exceptionally influential voice in years to come.

28. John Holder NEW

The Atlanta developer has mastered private-public partnerships with USC, developing two apartment complexes and an office building headlined by IBM in the Blossom-Assembly area. His company had already built two private condo and apartment projects and two office towers in town. Could the makeover of the south side of USC’s campus be next? The school is looking for a private partner for that project, too.

29. Bill Nettles ?1

In his six years as U.S. Attorney, Nettles has dramatically increased white-collar prosecutions, and he’s taken novel approaches to drug and gang issues, from drug courts that help treat drug abuse to targeting higher-up drug kingpins rather than street-level dealers. With Obama on the way out, Nettles is probably headed out, too, but his influence on the legal and law enforcement communities could be felt for years to come.

30. Bob Hughes ?21

On the one hand, the legendary Greenville developer has enormous power over the city’s future as master developer for the Bull Street campus, site of the former state mental hospital in the heart of Columbia. On the other hand — where’s the beef, Bob? There’s a beautiful new baseball stadium in the middle of the site, but we’re still waiting to hear what retail businesses will be opening there — and when.

31. Todd Rutherford ?7

Rutherford does exactly what the House Minority Leader needs to do: He crafts good sound bites, and he always pins the blame on the GOP. His Democratic politics have a libertarian flavor, putting him occasionally at odds with his party; he’s no big fan of gun control, for example, and favors medical marijuana and legalized gambling. But when it comes to crunch time, the Columbia lawyer can give a floor speech in favor of abortion rights like no one’s business.

32. Costa Pleicones NEW

It’s hard to consider a state Supreme Court Chief Justice a one-and-done on the Power 50, but Pleicones will be in the big chair only until the end of the year because he’s hit the mandatory retirement age of 72. Still, he will have a hand in some big cases — state Attorney General Alan Wilson’s fight over control of the State House investigation with 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, and the progress by lawmakers in providing more funding for poorer schools.

33. Tim Pearson NEW

He might not be a household name to many in the state, but in South Carolina political circles, he’s well known as Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief advisor. A consistent presence at her major news conferences, Pearson is part of a very small group of people she consults in making decisions, such as removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds. The Connecticut native managed Haley’s upstart 2010 gubernatorial campaign, where the backbench House member upset three GOP veteran politicians in the primary. He became her chief of staff, ran her re-election bid and now leads a pro-Haley political group. Pearson has done well, earning more than $1 million from his Haley-related activities since 2009.

34. Karen Brosius NEW

We mostly just wanted to remind you that Brosius just met Michelle Obama. The executive director at the Columbia Museum of Art was in Washington, D.C., earlier this month accepting from the First Lady a 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, one of the most prestigious awards American libraries and museums can receive. And now, as the museum’s national star continues to rise, Brosius and her team should be able to do even more.

35. Seth Rose ?14

Over the past half-decade, Richland County Council seems to have gotten steadily more dysfunctional — but Councilman Seth Rose is always pushing against the tide. He essentially shamed his fellow council members into ending the practice of voice voting (which used to sometimes make it impossible to know how a given council member had voted); more recently, he’s been one of the few voices on Council calling for the county to actually fix the penny tax program instead of being angry at the Department of Revenue for investigating it.

36. Ray Tanner NEW

Who has more power, USC’s alternately beloved and loathed coaches — depending on the quality of the current season — or the guy who hires and fires those coaches? Either way, as athletics director, Tanner certainly wields some considerable influence, overseeing programs that seriously impact the local economy. The fall performance of new football coach Will Muschamp (which right now looks like a pretty good hire) will have a lot to do with whether Tanner rises or falls on next year’s Power List.

37. Aundrai Holloman ?1

Before Holloman took charge as general manager, the Township Auditorium was a beautifully remodeled space without enough attention-grabbing concerts to show for it. And while the venue’s recent months haven’t included as many eye-popping acts (The Avett Brothers, Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, etc.) as the initial burst that first grabbed Holloman a place on this list, we’re still excited by the recent appearance by rapidly rising rapper Kevin Gates and the late-summer date coming from Jill Scott.

38. Chuck Beaman Jr. NEW

The Palmetto Health boss strengthened his hospital group’s ties to USC by completing a deal to merge physician practices with the college. Next will come USC moving its medical school from Garners Ferry Road to a 14-acre site near Palmetto Health Richland with a new $200 million complex. That would give Beaman’s main hospital and the college more direct links to researchers and equipment — and create a potential rival to Medical University of South Carolina.

39. Katrina Shealy ?29

The Lexington senator has done things her own way. As one of just two women in the Senate, she has carved a niche for trying to protect children. The Republican has fought for families hurt by the state’s child-welfare agency, even if it meant a bit of black eye for Gov. Haley, who supported her election in 2012. Shealy has also worked on a bill requiring county coroners to establish a team to review deaths of children under 18.

40. Melanie Huggins ?4

Like the Columbia Museum of Art, Richland Library was nominated for a 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. And while it didn’t win, the fact that its community outreach programs are grabbing such national attention is a testament to the job that the executive director and her staff are doing.

41. Henry McMaster NEW

Smart? Lucky? A little bit of both? The lieutenant governor made national headlines as the first statewide official in the nation to back Donald Trump for president. His endorsement of the bombastic political outsider during a Lexington County rally was a surprise. McMaster is a stalwart in the GOP — a former state party chairman and attorney general. But he bet on the right horse, and is trying to use this influence by backing the incumbents that his ally, Gov. Haley, has opposed. He also is expected to mount another run for governor in 2018.

42. Phill Blair ?4

You might think that an event promoter’s biggest event being rained out would be a knock on his Power List credentials. But in salvaging Blonde Redhead’s headlining set at last fall’s Jam Room Music Festival amid the flood that devastated Columbia, Blair and the rest of the team further proved their resourcefulness. In addition to that well-loved Main Street rock festival, Blair runs The Whig — a hub of drinks and conversation for local creative types — and books the bands and breweries at the Columbia Museum of Art’s quarterly Arts & Draughts parties. Nobody makes more happen on the local performance scene than him.

43. Lee Snelgrove NEW

A City of Columbia audit earlier this year raised concerns that the city shouldn’t have given hospitality tax funding for certain purposes to One Columbia, a local organization that helps facilitate various arts projects around the city. City Council reacted by funding One Columbia out of the city’s general fund budget instead. Now, after Snelgrove’s impassioned (but characteristically low-key) defense of his organization drew vehement support from the local arts community and greater visibility overall, One Columbia has only grown stronger.

44. Katie Fox ?3

The Second City. Screenings from National Theatre Live (one of them featuring the inimitable Helen Mirren). Ladysmith Black Mambazo. These are not the kind of things you’d typically expect a 400-capacity room in a suburb of a modest Southern burg to book. But schedulings such as these highlights from the upcoming season have become the norm at the Harbison Theatre at Midlands Tech under executive director Katie Fox.

45. Emile DeFelice ?3

As the owner and founder of Soda City Market, DeFelice has helped make downtown Columbia hip enough for Happiness Bomb, yet safe enough for Hampton Hill housewives. The guy pulled off a dinner for 1,000 people on the Gervais Street Bridge. He just knows how to make cool things happen. The City of Columbia recently put DeFelice on behavioral notice, saying he has to be a “goodwill ambassador” in order to continue holding his market on Main — but his accomplishments mean DeFelice will probably be part of Columbia’s recipe for success for years to come.

46. Matt Kennell NEW

First Thursday on Main is as big as ever. Not one but two new bars are opening soon on Main Street, bringing a welcome injection of nightlife to the frustratingly diurnal corridor. Events like Famously Hot New Year, Hip-Hop Family Day and the Jam Room Music Festival are thriving. Now, not all of this progress can be attributed to President and CEO Matt Kennell and his City Center Partnership, but it’s hard to imagine all this happening so rapidly without their help.

47. Rev. Dr. Charles B. Jackson NEW

Brookland Baptist Church, where Jackson is senior pastor, has been a political hub over the past year. President Obama visited last year. Democratic hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held events at the West Columbia church during their presidential campaigns. Even Republicans used the church with state Attorney General Alan Wilson hosting one of his presidential forums with Ben Carson.

48. Fielding Pringle NEW

Public defenders can be an overworked, downtrodden lot. But as Richland County’s chief public defender, Pringle does more than just churn through cases. She’s currently challenging the constitutionality of the county’s ankle monitoring program, and she recently sued the state Department of Juvenile Justice for transferring youths to an adult facility following a February riot.

49. James Lehman NEW

The managing partner of the (already powerful) Nelson Mullins law firm had enough pull to save a dam in his WildeWood neighborhood from bursting during last year’s historic flood. He marshaled neighbors who were able to get SCE&G, South Carolina National Guard, a major highway contractor and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help save the 24-foot Beaver Dam Lake dam from breaching. After 1-ton sandbags disappeared into a growing sinkhole, crews brought in 100 tons of rock to secure the earthen dam. Lehman was careful to share the credit, but his skills pulled together the dam-rescue team.

50. Jaime Harrison NEW

Back when Dick Harpootlian was head of the state Democratic Party, he made a lot of headlines — but he didn’t necessarily grow the party. Harrison isn’t afraid to knock Republicans, but he’s otherwise cordial, as evidenced by his rapport with SCGOP chair Matt Moore. He’s doing a decent job of keeping Democrats competitive in a state where the party is seriously in the minority — and of avoiding the kind of Alvin Greene-style outright embarrassments the party has suffered in the past.

The Next 50

Ben Arnold — owner, Arnold Construction Company

Luther Battiste — attorney, Johnson, Toal & Battiste

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

Mac Bennett — president, United Way of the Midlands

Sue Berkowitz — director, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Michael Biediger — president and CEO, Lexington Medical Center

Cindi Boiter — publisher, Jasper

Mike Brenan — president, BB&T

Natalie Britt — director, Palmetto Conservation Foundation

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

Richard Burts — developer, 701 Whaley

Lee Bussell — chairman and CEO, Chernoff Newman

Bob Coble — attorney, Nexsen Pruet

John Courson — chairman, Senate Education Committee

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

Judith Davis — executive VP and chief legal officer, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Tameika Isaac Devine — Columbia City Council

Howard Duvall — Columbia City Council

Lonnie Emard — president, IT-oLogy

Vince Ford — chief community health services officer, Palmetto Health

Scott Garvin — president, Garvin Design Group

Tayloe Harding — dean, USC School of Music

Norman Jackson — Richland County Council

Dan Johnson — Richland County solicitor

Trae Judy — partner, Music Farm Productions

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

Marcus Lattimore — assistant coach, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School

Joel Lourie — S.C. senator

Kevin Marsh — chairman and CEO, SCANA

Frank Martin — head coach, USC men’s basketball

Jay Matheson — director, Jam Room Music Festival and owner, Jam Room Recording Studio

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

Mia McLeod — S.C. House member

Clay Middleton — state director, Hillary for America

Darla Moore — partner, Rainwater, Inc.

Stewart Mungo — chairman, Mungo Homes

Will Muschamp — head coach, USC football

Kristian Niemi — owner, Bourbon

David Pankau — CEO, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Elise Partin — mayor, Cayce

Anne Postic — arbiter of local tastes in food, fashion and parenting

Tom Prioreschi — founder, Capitol Places

Ben Rex — president, Cyberwoven

Antjuan Seawright — president and CEO, Sunrise Communications

James Smith — S.C. House member

Steve Spurrier — former head coach, USC football

David Swinton — president, Benedict College

Ann Timberlake — director, Conservation Voters of South Carolina

Don Tomlin — president, Tomlin and Co.

Gary Watts — Richland County Coroner

Let us know what you think: Email paste email address here.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Columbia Breaking News

Greenville Breaking News

Myrtle Beach Breaking News

Aiken Breaking News

N Augusta Breaking News