Beasley: Columbia has been blessed with leaders

December 2, 2013 


— The recent death of Steve Morrison reminds us of what a Renaissance man he was, from his support of the arts to fighting for equity and fairness for all of our state’s citizens. There are others, still living, whose astute hearts and minds lead them to recognize civic duty and the satisfaction that comes with making Columbia a better place to live.

With our city’s leadership paradigm in such sharp focus, it seems appropriate to recognize some of the strong, creative leaders we have had over the decades.

As president and CEO of the Columbia Urban League since 1979, J.T. McLawhorn has led our city in all sorts of community-development initiatives. His focus on bringing people from different races and backgrounds to work together and his outreach in education have created steady progress.

Bobbi Kennedy, special projects director for the president of S.C. ETV, has served on several advisory boards in the city, particularly working with K-12 education and advocating for continuing education opportunities for adults.

A special aspect of leadership in Columbia is those families who serve from one generation to the next. Businessman Norman Arnold has served on the boards of hospitals, schools and professional organizations and been a fierce advocate of healthy living and public health, demonstrating philanthropy not only in financial gifts but also in the gift of his time and influence. His son, Ben, joins him not only as a successful businessman but also as a civic-minded leader who serves on several community boards and advocacy organizations.

Jim Leventis served on Richland County Council, school board and on several committees and community service initiatives. His father, Chris, was an immigrant from Greece who encouraged his children to give back to their community, saying: “We live in this whole town, not just in this house on the corner.” Jim’s daughter, Laura Leventis McKinney, continues the family legacy, serving as deputy director of New Carolina, South Carolina’s Council on Competitiveness, with a focus on improving education in our city and state.

Candy Waites served on County Council and in the Legislature and has been an advocate for women in leadership positions. Her daughter, Robin, is executive director of Historic Columbia and lends her expertise and enthusiasm to a variety of Columbia organizations.

We are a city blessed with citizens who recognize the importance of giving back in both service and enthusiasm. They fit the definition of public servants that President Eisenhower provided when he said: “The opportunist thinks of me and today. The statesman thinks of us and tomorrow.”

Sherry Beasley


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