The difference between city and county governments in Columbia, SC

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At the start of the new year, we asked y’all to submit questions you have about Columbia that we could dive into + answer. One question we received, submitted by reader Beth W., asked about the differences between county and city government and their individual jurisdictions. 

In South Carolina, each county has its own system of government. Within each county, each municipality also has its own government system — which you can see a full breakdown of here. Tricky, right? Let us break it down for you.

Within Richland County alone, there are seven municipality governments; Lexington County has nine. 

Both county and city/town governments have their own sets of laws and regulations, which can and often do differ. 

So, whose laws do you follow?

Simply put, government jurisdiction is determined by location. For example, those who live or work within City of Columbia limits are under the jurisdiction of Columbia City Government. Those who live or work outside of any municipality district are part of “unincorporated Richland County” and are under the jurisdiction of the county.

Check out this interactive Richland County map to determine what city (if at all) your property is located in. 

Who makes up local governments?

Richland County’s government system is made up of elected officials, including a council, auditor, clerk of court, coroner, probate judge, sheriff, solicitor, and treasurer. There are also numerous advisory councils and commissions in the county government, which open positions within can be applied for.

Local municipality governments are made up of elected officials, including a city/town mayor and a council. Just like the county government, these officials make policies and laws for their municipality. 

What are each of the different local governments?

Within Richland County, there’s the Columbia City Government, Forest Acres City Government, Arcadia Lakes Town Government, Cayce City Government, Blythewood Town Government, Eastover Town Government, and Irmo Town Government.

Lexington County’s nine municipalities include West Columbia City Government, Lexington Town Government, Cayce City Government + more.