A Columbia real estate developer says he will challenge Columbia City Councilwoman Leona Plaugh in the Nov. 5 election.
Todd Walter, who says he has developed apartment complexes and shopping centers throughout the Southeast, said in a news release Monday that “we need a representative on City Council who understands our community and who will fight for our values.”
In an interview, Walter said he has nothing against Plaugh, who is finishing up her first term on City Council.
“I just hope I can do better,” he said.
But Plaugh said that she has served constituents well during her time on council.
“Looking back at some of the surveys we did early on in the campaign, I feel like I have lived up to the promises and commitments that I have made, (like) really focusing on living within our means and making sure our infrastructure needs are met,” Plaugh told The State on Monday. “I feel like I have been that voice of reason and accountability.”
Walter, 73, moved to Columbia in 1972 from Washington to work for Wilbur Smith Associates, now known as CDM Smith, an engineering firm. Walter said he performed economic analyses for companies. In the Columbia area, he said he developed the Gable Hill Apartments and Parklane Apartments in northeast Columbia. He said he also has done some contract work for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., helping facilitate the sale of banks.
Walter has never run for public office. His only political experience, he said, was “putting stuff in mailboxes” for former President John F. Kennedy. He said he wants to be on City Council because he can help create incentives for companies to move here and hire more people, creating “more jobs and more tax revenue.”
“I think it would help to have a more business perspective in the city,” he said.
Plaugh said she brings the perspective of a small businesswoman to council as the owner of an entertainment marketing and management company.
“I don’t know which business perspective he would be referring to. You know, I am a businessperson. I run a business. I certainly have to balance our revenues and expenses and make sure we meet our expectations. We plan and budget accordingly and that’s another skill set that I feel like I also bring to City Council – not just on the public side but on the private side. I know how it is to pay accommodations taxes, to pay sales taxes. I know how it is to try to get your business license in and appropriate attachments included, because I do it,” she said.
Plaugh is finishing up her first term on City Council. She defeated former Richland County Council chairman Tony Mizzell in 2010 in a runoff election to replace former Councilman Kirkman Finlay, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor. Finlay now represents Richland County in the S.C. House.
Plaugh represents District 4, which encompasses the southeastern portion of the city and includes all of Fort Jackson and parts of Northeast Richland. It is the most conservative of the city’s four council districts.
Plaugh worked for Columbia for 28 years before she was elected to City Council, including two years as city manager. City Council fired her in 2003 and replaced her with former Columbia Police Chief Charles Austin.
As a councilwoman, Plaugh led the committee that overhauled the city’s ethics code for the first time since 1997. As a result, the city now requires, for the first time, an ethics oath from City Council members.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.