Opinion Extra

Richland County must return to the guiding principles the brought progress

I’m often asked why I continue to serve after having spent 28 years as a member of Richland County Council.

The answer is simple: This is home. I enjoy public service and giving back by helping my community become a place where those who grow up here want to stay and raise their children, new people want to come and start families, and businesses want to relocate and expand.

I believe in Richland County and the great promise it holds.

That’s what drove my recent effort to become chair of County Council, a position I’ve held several times. I’m grateful that my council colleagues selected me to lead the council once again.

I assume this role with a sense of urgency and purpose. Richland County is at a crossroad. While we have experienced tremendous growth and development, in recent years we have drifted away from some of the guiding principles that led to that progress.

But we can recapture the momentum by being dutiful, thoughtful and intentional about steering the county in a prosperous direction.

I will encourage the council to focus on regional cooperation, economic development, public involvement and rural development.

It is critical that we engage in regional cooperation. We are at our best when we are talking and working with elected officials in the city of Columbia and Lexington, Kershaw, Fairfield and Newberry counties, as well as others throughout the region.

Regional cooperation works. I was among those who pushed for the type of collaboration that helped lead to successful efforts such as Riverbanks Zoo, The River Alliance, the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and development in downtown and the Vista.

When we all pull in the same direction, we all win.

In truth, we are one economic region. Successful regional cooperation can propel economic development.

Richland County prospers when the Vista and downtown flourish. A strong urban core supports the growth of the suburbs and other unincorporated parts just as vibrant unincorporated areas support growth in the city. We also benefit when others in the region do well.

We are often compared with Charleston and Greenville. The main difference between us and those areas is that they do a better job of taking advantage of their resources. We have our own positive attributes that we can leverage to grow our community. Richland County is home to several institutions of higher education, Fort Jackson and other resources that could help create an attractive knowledge economy.

During my time on the council, I supported big economic development projects and other major improvements such as the arrival of International Paper, Verizon, the expansion of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and China Jushi. Let’s not forget the Village at Sandhill, the Richland transportation penny program, the renovation of The Township, the relocation of the Columbia Museum of Art and the most recent bond issue that funded the expansion of the Richland Library.

The successful major initiatives in Richland County are typically those that allow public involvement and ask citizens to help shape them.

Finally, it’s imperative that we develop a comprehensive plan to address infrastructure and other needs in our rural areas to ensure they are viable and strong.

The way forward won’t be easy, but a committed council whose members respect one another and who are willing to work together in the best interest of all citizens can get the job done.

Mr. Livingston is chairman of Richland County Council and represents Council District 4.