Local Gov. 101 for Columbia, SC

Get familiar with how Columbia, SC’s local government works and explore your role as a citizen.


An aerial view of the State House

Photo via Trinity Partners

Table of Contents

To be an effective citizen, you have to be a knowledgeable one.

How does our local government work? Where can I have a say? Who can I go to if I have a problem? What resources are available to me?

Class is in session, Soda Citizens. We’re teaching Columbia Gov 101, where we break down different aspects of our local government to become engaged Soda Citizens that create healthier (and more effective) communities.

🧑‍⚖️ City Council

How does it work?

In short, the Mayor and City Council members develop policies and enact laws.

The City Council is made up of:

  • The Mayor
  • Council District members (4)
  • At-Large Council members (2).

Who’s who? Let’s start at the top. We’ll give you a peek into our City Council members but strongly encourage you to get-to-know them by clicking on their names and exploring each member’s bio page on the City of Columbia’s website.

The Mayor

Mayor Rickenmann

Mayor Rickenmann

Photo from Columbiasc.gov

Daniel J. Rickenmann | Mayor Rickenmann was raised in Spartanburg, graduated from USC, was a local entrepreneur, served two stints on the Columbia city council, and was sworn in on January 4, 2022. He is expected to serve a four-year term.

Councilwoman Tina N. Herbert, District One | Councilwoman Herbert is a workers’ compensation attorney with Mickle and Bass, LLC. She’s also an Economic and Community Development Committee Member, a Public Safety Committee Member, and sits as a chairwoman on the Technology Committee.

Councilman Edward H. McDowell Jr., District Two | Councilman McDowell is passionate about neighborhoods and serves as an Administrative Policy Committee Member, Arts and Historic Preservation Committee Member, and an Environment and Infrastructure Committee Chair member.

Councilman Will Brennan, District Three| Councilman Brennan was born and raised in Columbia, currently lives in Hollywood-Rosehill, and owns both Brennan Works — a design and construction company — and Carolina Sky Development LLC — a Commercial Real Estate Development firm.

District Four | This seat has been vacant since Councilman Joe E. Taylor Jr. unexpectedly died before the first of the year. During his tenure, Taylor expressed a passion for small business objectives. There will be a special election for this vacant seat on March 28.

At-Large Council members

Councilwoman Aditi Bussells, At-Large | Councilwoman Aditi Bussells is a founding partner of Resilient Richland and believes Columbia can be a prosperous destination for families to live, work, and play. She would like to deal with the root causes of crime and bring more family-supporting jobs to our city.

Councilman Howard Duvall, At-Large | Councilman Howard Duvall is the former mayor of Cheraw County. He also serves as an Environment and Infrastructure Committee Member, is a chairman for the Public Safety Committee, and is a Technology Committee Member.

🏛️ Cities vs. counties

When we kicked off our Local Gov. 101 conversation, we asked you in a survey what you wanted to know about our local government — and boy did you guys have questions.

One of the repeated questions was how to understand the differences between the City of Columbia and Richland county regarding boundaries. You asked; we’re answering — let’s break down some boundaries.

Each county has its own system of government but located within each county, local municipality governments also have their own government system that is made up of elected officials — like mayors and councils.

Now let’s put that into perspective. Within Richland County, there are six municipality governments:

The government jurisdiction that you abide by is determined by your location. If you live within the City of Columbia limits, you are under the jurisdiction of the Columbia City Government.

Simply put — if you live outside of any municipality district are part of “unincorporated Richland County” and are placed under the jurisdiction of the county.

Need an easy way to determine which city you’re located in? Use this interactive Richland County map to determine what city (if at all) your property is located in.

Another reader asked about the unincorporated parts of counties and how those citizens’ voices were heard. Richland County Council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. All meetings are open to the public and if you can’t make it in person, watch council meetings live online or watch archived Richland County Council meetings.

Richland County also provides GeoInfo Internet Mapping as a resource that will help you find your Richland County Council representative. Just type in your address to find your:

  • Voting precinct
  • Voting location
  • Count Council District
  • County Council Representative
  • And more

🏗 Planning and Development Services department

Have you ever explored the Planning and Development Services department tab on the City of Columbia’s website? This department’s goal is to oversee developments around the City to ensure that each project enhances the quality of life for citizens, promotes neighborhoods, supports businesses, and protects the environment.

It’s chock-full of city information and has a hand in historic preservation, design development, the Board of Zoning Appeals, street naming, and much, much more.

In addition to being a landing page for many city-related resources, it deals with four key parts of development:

Development Review and Permitting

Building Inspections

  • The department will review and monitor construction to make sure everything is up to code.


  • The Planning Division will facilitate + implement plans for the City. It has heavy involvement with our business districts and neighborhoods. This department also works with historic preservation and urban design guidelines, think — the Bailey Bill. See what the planning division currently has in the works, including preparing for National Historic Preservation Month, Calhoun Street’s improvements, adding public seating on Main Street, and more.

Land Development and Zoning

  • This department covers issues pertaining to the division of land, group developments, the placement of buildings, parking requirements, and more.

Fun Fact — 360 permits were issued around Columbia last month, holding a total value of $49,623,735, and 115 of those permits were issued for new single, two-family, or townhome constructions.
The Planning and Development Services also keeps a record of city projects by compiling public reports that assist policymakers, Soda citizens, and city staff when developing policies or initiating city programs. Explore the reporting page to stay up to date with the city’s happenings.

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