Columbia loses a city government professional

Deborah Christie

One of Columbia city government’s most respected department heads, Deborah Christie, is to be buried Wednesday after a years-long battle with cancer.

Christie, 59, was widely known as Deborah Livingston, a partner in a power couple with then-husband Paul Livingston. Paul Livingston is a member of Richland County Council and its former chairman. The couple divorced in January after a 22-year marriage.

As recently as a month ago, Christie was helping to relocate residents from substandard motels to better homes, Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson said. “She was on site with the residents every day, on the bus with them. She was a fighter. She battled her disease by working through it.”

Christie’s kidney and lung cancer took portions of those organs since her diagnosis four years ago, Paul Livingston said. She went to hospice care and died Friday, according to Livingston and others who have been sharing condolences across the city.

Wilson called Christie “one of the most capable professionals” Wilson has known. “As manager, I’ve never had to worry about whether the department and federal dollars were professionally managed.”

Mayor Steve Benjamin described Christie as a “consummate professional.”

“Deborah was a champion of community development, of creating great neighborhoods,” Benjamin said. “She had that rare ability to have a 30,000-foot vision and still cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i.’ She will be sorely missed.”

Emma McGraw Myers, president of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods, was impressed with Christie’s dedication to her job and to helping neighborhoods get the assistance they need.

“She was first class,” Myers said. “If it couldn’t be done first class, she didn’t want to have anything to do with it.”

Christie, born on New Year’s Eve in 1956 in Heidelberg, Germany, to military parents, moved to Columbia in 1980. Here, she forged a career that linked her to improving the lives of low- to moderate-income families.

She converted her banking background into executive positions with the Columbia Housing Development Corp. and the Two Notch Road Development Corp. before being named director of the city’s offices of Community Development and Business Opportunities. Her job involved overseeing millions of dollars in federal funds and leveraging the money to upgrade neighborhoods.

When Christie, a resident of Elmwood Park, took over Community Development, it was in turmoil, in the news and under investigation for allegations of misuses of public money.

Since being named to the post in 2011, she converted the office into an award-winning department. The office since has been honored by the Municipal Association of South Carolina, the United Way and national groups. Its name no longer makes searing headlines involving mismanagement.

Livingston said the outpouring of sympathy he and Christie’s family have received demonstrate her impact. “I realized I wasn’t the only one who loved and respected her. A lot of other folks did, too.”

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

Funeral services

Services for Deborah Christie are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon with burial later in the day.

WHEN: 1 p.m. church service; graveside service to follow

WHERE: Reformation Lutheran Church, 1118 Union St. (corner of Union and River Drive). Burial will be at Greenlawn Memorial Park, 845 Leesburg Road.

DONATIONS: Columbia Parks and Recreation Foundation for a culinary training facility at the Booker Washington Heights cultural arts center.