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Changing Midlands Leadership: Major makeover at City Hall

Columbia's most pressing question in 2010 is: Who will lead South Carolina's Capital City?

After 20 years, Mayor Bob Coble is leaving office, and Councilman Kirkman Finlay says he is giving up his fourth district council seat to run for mayor.

Two other council members, Tameika Isaac Devine and Sam Davis, are also up for re-election - meaning the seven-member council could have a new majority by July.

Political leaders aside, the city is missing two key administrative posts. The city hasn't had a permanent city manager since Charles Austin retired last January.

And after two years and millions of dollars lost because of poor accounting decisions, the city still does not have a permanent chief financial officer.

But it could be difficult for the city to attract quality candidates for its top administrative posts until city voters decide who will run City Council.

The election is April 6.

Also next year, at least two other key leaders in Richland County posts will be leaving:

- Richland 2 superintendent Stephen Hefner announced his plans to retire at the end of this school year.

The next chief of the Midlands' largest school district will have big shoes to fill, observers say - keeping Richland 2 a leader in magnet and choice programs, as well as technology initiatives.

- One of Richland County Council's longest-serving members, Kit Smith, announced she won't seek re-election in the fall.

Smith, who has spent nearly 20 years on council, has used her tenure to rail against suburban sprawl and advocate for the environment.

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