Richland County councilman to retire. Why he wants to focus on ‘Gray Hair’

District 8 councilman Jim Manning at a meeting of the Richland County Council. 2/19/19
District 8 councilman Jim Manning at a meeting of the Richland County Council. 2/19/19 tglantz@thestate.com

One of Richland County’s most recognizable local politicians has announced he is stepping down after the next election.

Jim Manning announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election in 2020 to his seat on Richland County Council.

Instead, the Democratic councilman wants to focus on the consulting business he started two years ago, a firm he calls Gray Hair Solutions.

“I’ve got a good decade of career left in me, and I want to develop that and enjoy the next decade,” said the 63-year-old Manning, who stands out on the county council for his long white hair and rotation of bow ties.

Gray Hair is already working with the Orton Family Foundation’s Community Heart and Soul program in South Carolina. The non-profit works to spur community development in small towns that have been impacted by vanishing industry. The foundation is already working with community organizations in Manning, Fort Lawn and Kershaw, the councilman said.

The firm has also done work on death penalty mitigation cases, Manning said.

Manning was first elected in 2008 from District 8, which covers the northeastern portion of the county. He ran his first campaign on improving Decker Boulevard, and is proud that in his time on council older buildings in the corridor have been pulled down, new businesses opened and the county’s central magistrate’s court moved into a commercial strip off the boulevard.

In his time on the council, Manning has also chaired the county’s anti-human trafficking task force, pushed to hire the county’s first economic development director, eliminated the waiting list for the Meals on Wheels program (with former Councilman Greg Pearce), and worked to hire a sustainability coordinator “years before the Green New Deal,” he said.

Manning also worked to pass the referendum that created the county’s $1 billion penny tax program to pay for transportation improvements.

But he wants his eventual successor to know “there’s still a lot of important work that needs to be done in Richland County.”

His advice to whoever is sitting in his seat in 2021? “You need to focus on what’s important to the people,” Manning said. “And realize that while there are 11 council districts, it’s the Richland County Council and the Richland County government, not 11 mini-counties.”

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.