City of Columbia announced as 2018 All-America City Finalist

image of All-America City Finalist logo

The City of Columbia has been named one of 20 finalists nationwide for the 2018 All-America City Awards. The finalists will compete June 22-24 in Denver to be recognized among the 10 annual All-America City winners. 

The All-America City Awards is the flagship program of the National Civic League. Its spotlight this year was “Promoting Equity through Inclusive Civic Engagement.”

“These finalist communities are building local capacity to solve problems and improve their quality of life,” said National Civic League President Doug Linkhart in announcing the finalists. “The National Civic League is honored to recognize these communities, and views their efforts as critical in addressing the challenge to communities issued by the 1968 Kerner Commission ‘To make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens --- urban and rural, white, black, Spanish surname, American Indians, and every minority group.’ ”

“In our 2036 vision for Columbia, we set out to create a world-class city that not only harbors resilient municipal infrastructure but also harbors a strong community of human infrastructure,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Being designated as a 2018 All-America City is an exciting achievement that exhibits our commitment to civic engagement and an inclusive city.” 

The All-America City Awards were established in 1949. Columbia was a winner in 1951 and 1964. Other South Carolina communities named as finalists this year include Kershaw County and Mount Pleasant. No other state has as many finalists as South Carolina.

"All-America City Finalist status speaks volumes about the charming, cosmopolitan, entrepreneurial and community focus of our beautiful city," said City Manager Teresa Wilson. "Columbia epitomizes the character and spirit that any American holds dear for the community in which he or she lives. We are honored to be recognized!"

City of Columbia is 100th city to join the National What Works Cities Initiative

Image of City Council and the City Manager holding the What Works City's banner

On Jan. 17, 2018, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin announces the City of Columbia has been selected as the final city to participate in the What Works Cities initiative. What Works Cities Initiative, part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies, assists partners in using data and evidence to address local issues.  The City of Columbia will be utilizing the partnership to create an open data portal to specifically address repairs and improvements to the local storm water system. 

Benjamin says, “In alignment with our 2036 City Vision Statement, we are excited to commit to becoming a smarter city, and joining the What Works Cities Initiative will be a major component of that commitment,” said Mayor Benjamin. “Our utilities and engineering department is always implementing increasingly efficient services, and we’re excited to roll out the new policies.”

“When cities know how to put data at the core of their decision-making, they’re equipped with the tools to best solve local challenges and serve their communities,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “We’re excited to welcome these five cities and very proud to reach our goal of working with 100 cities across the United States.”  

Based on this initiative, Columbia will have access to a consortium of expert organizations assembled by Bloomberg Philanthropies to support our city including: the Behavioral Insights Team, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation.

Finance Department receives top award for 4th Consecutive Year

image of City Council and the Finance Department Staff holding award

The City of Columbia has earned the prestigious Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The Government Financial Officers Association of the United States and Canada issues the award to governmental agencies which demonstrate a constructive spirit of full disclosure to clearly communicate its financial story. The City of Columbia has earned the award based on the comprehensive annual report that was submitted for the 2016 fiscal year. 

In presenting the plaque and brass medallion on Tuesday, September 5, City Manager Teresa Wilson said, “Our diligent and hard-working financial team should be commended. The City of Columbia has received this recognition in previous years and it is a testament to our continuous focus on fiscal responsibility.

On receiving this award, Palen says, “I work with a team of amazing men and women who guard the fiduciary interests of the City of Columbia with sound practices and most importantly integrity. This award is confirmation of their daily commitment to transparency and high quality municipal services.”

Finance Director Jan Alonso says, ”This the fourth consecutive year that the City has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. The staff has worked hard to make this happen and we are fortunate to have a City Council and Executive Management team who understand the importance of this award.”

The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounts and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment. 

City of Columbia Receives Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting  

The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting has been awarded to City of Columbia by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for its comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR). The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management.
“This is a great achievement for the City of Columbia, and I commend our staff in the Finance Department,” said City Manager Teresa Wilson. “The Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting is the result of a collaborative effort between city leaders, management and staff working together on a common goal of fiscal responsibility.”
The CAFR was judged by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program including demonstrating a constructive "spirit of full disclosure" to clearly communicate its financial story and motivate potential users and user groups to read the CAFR.
The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals.

City of Columbia Wastewater Team Wins National Water Heroes Award

City of Columbia Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant staff, Ashley Dove, James Foust, Adrian Martin, and Brandon Wilcox, were selected by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) for its national 2016 Water Heroes Award for responding bravely during Columbia’s historic October 2015 flood.
The Water Heroes Award recognizes an individual or group who goes beyond the call of duty during an emergency situation to continue protecting the public and the environment and who raises the status of the wastewater industry in the United States. Dove, Foust, Martin, and Wilcox will be honored during WEFTEC®, the Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference September 27, 2016, in New Orleans.
In October 2015, South Carolina was hit by a three-day, 1,000-year rain that caused devastating flooding in the Midlands. Throughout the event, staff calmly managed the wastewater that was surging through the 60 million-gallon-per-day rated plant. At one point, they maintained inflow of 156 million gallons in one day, a level not seen before in the plant’s history. Concerns about the reliability of a nearby dike prompted the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to recommend staff evacuate and shut down the plant. However, Dove, Foust, Martin, and Wilcox placed concern for public wellbeing and other staff above their own safety. They agreed to stay at the plant to maintain the system. Had the plant been evacuated and shut off, raw sewage would have poured into the river, surrounding neighborhoods and city streets, and drastically impacted Columbia’s citizens. Throughout the crisis, regulatory compliance was maintained at the Metro Wastewater Treatment Plant, and no sewage was spilled into the river from the plant.
Ashley Dove is the 2002 Water Environment Association of South Carolina (WEASC) Water Operator of the Year. James Foust recently won the 2015 WEASC’s Wastewater Operator of the Year.

Deputy Chief Kelly Receives International Recognition

image of Deputy Chief Melron Kelly
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook announces that Deputy Chief Melron Kelly has been selected as one of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) ‘40 under 40’ Award winners.
According to the IACP, the 2016 award program recognizes 40 law enforcement professionals under the age of 40 from around the world who demonstrate leadership and commitment to their profession:

“Award winners will represent the law enforcement leaders of today as well as the leaders of tomorrow…” 

Winners were selected based on the following criteria:
  • Complies with age and employment requirements
  • Demonstration of values and commitment to law enforcement
  • Capacity for leadership
“I am grateful to be included in this elite group of award winners, especially from an organization that I respect,” Deputy Chief Kelly says. “Success attained over the years is a blessed gift. As a product of Columbia and while living my childhood dream, it’s important not to forget your roots.”

Chief Holbrook adds, “Deputy Chief Kelly is a dynamic leader who brings great balance, perspective and humility to the Columbia Police Department. His leadership style is exactly what is needed to address the many challenges and opportunities facing law enforcement today.”

Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson says, “I am extremely proud of Deputy Chief Kelly. He is most deserving and has demonstrated a sincere passion for his profession over the years-ascending from Youth Explorer to Deputy Chief of Police in the Columbia Police Department.”
Deputy Chief Kelly joined CPD in May 1999 after graduating from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. His first assignment was serving as the Residential Officer in the Waverly Street KOBAN.

Kelly received a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from South Carolina State University and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Justice Administration from the University of Louisville. He has also attended the Southern Police Executive Leadership Program and DEA Drug Commanders Program, and is a member of various community and social organizations, including NAACP, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Eau Claire Promise Zone Harmony, Inc. and other affiliations.
Deputy Chief Kelly spearheaded the Beyond the Badge Community Service Program for newly-sworn officers, Columbia Ceasefire Initiative with law enforcement partners, and was recently inducted into the Columbia Housing Authority’s Wall of Fame, and was part of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Class of South Carolina Black Pages, 20 Under 40 Awards in 2015.
Award winners will be formally recognized on October 17, 2016 at the San Diego Convention Center in California.

Community Development Receives John A. Sasso Award 

image of Community Development Staff receiving award.On Friday, June 24, 2016, the National Community Development Association (NCDA) recognized the Community Development department as one of the winners of the 2016 John A. Sasso National Community Development Week Award during a special luncheon at the 47th NCDA Annual Conference in Milwaukee, WI.
The award was created as a means of recognizing community efforts to promote and celebrate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program and the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program during National Community Development Week which was celebrated this year on March 28 – April 2, 2016. National Community Development Week provides the opportunity for grantees, sub-recipients, beneficiaries, State and local partners, and the community to unite to celebrate and recognize CDBG and HOME by showcasing projects and educating the community and Congressional Members on program benefits.
NCDA is a non-partisan, national non-profit membership-based organization that represents local government departments across the country that administers federally-supported community and economic development and affordable housing 2 programs. NCDA is an association of people committed to assist local governments to achieve high quality, locally responsive programs for making communities better places in which to live and work, particularly for low- and moderate income people.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of National Community Development Week and the 16th anniversary of the John A. Sasso National Community Development Week Award. CDBG and HOME Allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the CDBG and HOME programs form the bedrock of federal assistance to local communities. Both programs have been shrinking in recent years due to federal budget cuts. Since FY 2010, CDBG has been cut by over 20% while the HOME program has been cut by over 50%; causing reductions in local programs that provide community development and affordable housing assistance. National Community Development Week and the John A. Sasso National CD Week Award provide the opportunity to draw national attention to the programs.
The National Community Development Week Awards are named in honor of John A. Sasso, NCDA’s founder and leading force in nationally promoting CDBG, NCDA, and its members. In 1970, John Sasso became the first President of the Model Cities Community Development Directors Association (MCCDDA). MCCDDA eventually became the National Community Development Association after passage of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which created the CDBG program. John began his tenure in the field of community development as a Planner for the City of Pawtucket, RI. He retired from NCDA in 2000.
The City of Columbia was recognized due to the “pop-up stations” that were hosted in each of the City’s four council districts. At these stations, Community Development Department staff greeted residents; handed-out information on CDBG and HOME funded projects and informed the public about current CD programs and events. The City also planned a special media blitz involving street banners, social media posts, website announcements, press releases, end-of-week cookout downtown, and a large press conference with news media, program beneficiaries, elected officials, and other dignitaries.
In the weeks leading up to National CD Week, a Mayoral proclamation was written, printed, and framed, press releases were drafted and approved, talking points were transcribed for a City Talk advertisement, and a segment was taped. A digital invitation was produced and sent via e-mail blast to City employees, City Council members, sub-recipients, and beneficiaries. A banner for the pop-up stations as well as a new street banner was also designed.
The City’s Public and Media Relations Department sent out information about National CD Week to local media outlets, uploading it to the City’s website and posting it on the City’s Facebook and YouTube sites as well as on Instagram and Twitter. Columbia’s National CD Week culminated in a press conference attended by State and local elected officials, neighborhood leaders, and news and print media. During the week-long National CD Week celebration, Community Development staff physically spoke to more than 400 Columbia residents, many of whom were previously unaware of CDBG and HOME and their benefits to the community. 
For more information, please contact Community Development at (803) 545-3373.

City of Columbia Recognized as 2016 Playful City USA Community 

257 communities exhibiting Playability to be recognized as part of 2016 Playful City USA Program

The City of Columbia is being honored with a 2016 Playful City USA designation for the third time. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the national recognition program honors cities and towns across the country for making their cities more playable.
The City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department operates and maintains 60 city parks and green
spaces, 600 acres of city-maintained park land, 55 tennis courts and several city pools, spray pads and ponds, including a new pool facility at Greenview Park. All city parks are open year-round from dawn to dusk with no entrance fees.
The Parks and Recreation Department provides a variety of programming from athletics and cultural arts to health and wellness and special events. Such programming includes the Mayor’s Drills & Skills Clinics, Kids Day, Girls Golf clinics, nature walks and more.
The City of Columbia has invested in several projects to increase opportunities for children to play including the renovation of Roy Lynch Park, the completion of the Greenview Pool and the expansion of its outdoor
adventure program.
Communities across the country are creating innovative ways to bring back play and attract residents through family friendly activities. Interactive sidewalk art, designated play spaces on trails and the transformation of schoolyards into active play areas are just a few examples of how cities are becoming more playful.
“We are thrilled to recognize these communities that have invested their time and efforts to put kids first,” said KaBOOM! CEO James Siegal. “Balanced and active play is crucial to the well-being of kids and the
communities that they thrive in.  By integrating play into cities, the leaders of Playful Cities USA are working to attract and retain the thousands of families that want homes in close proximity to safe places to play.”
To see the full list of the 257 communities named 2016 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit
For more information about the City of Columbia’s parks, recreation centers and programs, please contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 803-545-3100.

City Manager Teresa Wilson and Community Development Director Deborah Christie Honored at CCN Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame Induction

On Thursday, April 28 City Manager Teresa Wilson and Community Development Director, Deborah Livingston were honored and presented the Friend of the CCN Award. The two outstanding women were nominated by the President and Vice President of the executive committee and given the award on behalf of the CCN Board of Directors. The theme for the night was, “Standing Strong.”
The Friend of the CCN award is presented to those who have made significant contributions to help or make the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods better in the past year. Deborah Christie was recognized for her continuous involvement in the community through the Community Development department. The Community Development Department was also there to accept the award on her behalf. Throughout the banquet, the City Manager was recognized for her upstanding dedication to the community during the October floods.
“It means so much to me, and I really receive the honor that's been given by the Columbia Council of Neighborhood as a friend to the CCN on behalf of all City staff,” said City Manager Teresa Wilson. “We've had a challenging year and it's really shown on the resilience of our community. So, to have the neighborhood leaders and the collaboration of neighborhoods to recognize our work as a city is very meaningful.”
Mayor Benjamin, City Councilmembers, fire and police chiefs were also in attendance and commended both of the honorees on their accomplishments.
For more information, please contact the Public and Media Relations department at (803) 545-3020.

Columbia Fire Department Achieves Maximum Rating Possible 

On April 25, 2016, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins along with City of Columbia and Richland County officials announced the results of the recent Insurance Services Office (ISO) Public Protection Classification (PPC) ratings. The City of Columbia has received a Class 1 and Richland County has received a Class 2. The City of Columbia’s previous rating was a PPC Class 2 and Richland County had a split rating of a PPC Class 4/9.
Chief Aubrey D. Jenkins stated, "This is a tremendous achievement for the Columbia Fire Department as well as the City of Columbia and Richland County. I commend the members of my staff that devoted countless hours of preparation that went into getting ready for the inspection and I would also like to thank the City of Columbia’s Water Division and Columbia-Richland Communications for their partnerships through this process."
Many insurance companies use ISO as one factor of many that go into determining fire protection ratings to further determine homeowner and business insurance premiums. The PPC classification ranges from 1; denoting superior fire protection, to 10; which indicates almost no fire protection is available. The Insurance Services Office has been evaluating and assigning ratings to fire departments since 1971.
ISO currently rates over 48,600 fire-protection areas within the United States of which 601 are in South Carolina. The City of Columbia’s new ISO PPC Class 1rating establishes it with an elite group of less than 1% nationally achieving this rating. Furthermore the Columbia Fire Department is now one of only 14 fire-protection areas in South Carolina to currently have a Class 1 rating. This is the City of Columbia’s first Class 1 rating in the Columbia Fire Department’s 113 year history. This Class 2 is for properties within five road miles of a fire station.
Richland County has obtained its highest rating by advancing to a Class 2 from a Class 4, after its last inspection in 2006. This Class 2 rating places Richland County in the top 2% nationally and is one of only 73 of the 601 fire-protection areas in the State to reach this significant accomplishment.
The process of determining a fire protection rating includes a comprehensive evaluation of four major components. These components are:
  • 911 Centers’ ability to answer/dispatch calls efficiently
  • Dispatching hardware/software upgrades
  • Backup generator power for call center
Water Supply
  • Robust City pressurized system (hydrants)
  • New pressurized system in the Richland County area (Hopkins)
  • Substantial Rural Water Supply Strategy to include daily/weekly training and record retention
Fire Service
  • Training-efficiency, frequency & record retention 
  • An aggressive equipment/apparatus replacement & inventory accountability/tracking program
  • Exemplary record of response times to structure fires
Community Risk (also known as prevention/education/code enforcement)
  • Juvenile fire setter intervention programs
  • A grass roots Smoke Alarm Installation Program
  • Code Enforcement program supported by a collaborative team effort by both City & County Code Officials
To view the press conference, visit the City's YouTube page. To download this edition of Celebrate Columbia, please click here.

City Manager Teresa Wilson Recognized as a Recipient of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award

City Manager Teresa Wilson was recognized at the 18th Annual Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Awards Banquet on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Wilson was selected as an honoree because of her tireless efforts and dedicated public service during the historic October 2015 flood. The Whitney  M. Young, Jr. Service Award Banquet was hosted by the Indian Waters Council, Boy Scouts of America.
“It is an honor to be a recipient of the Whitney M. Young Jr. award.  I am proud to serve my community and I commend the commitment to service that the Boy Scouts of America demonstrate every day.  I have never been prouder than when the Boy Scouts joined other organizations and volunteered to support those in need during the flood in 2015.  Our entire community displayed a high level of resilience during a historic crisis,” City Manager Teresa Wilson stated.
The Whitney M. Young, Jr Service Award is given to recognize outstanding service by an adult individual or organization in the development of Scouting for youth. This award also salutes “unsung heroes”, these people who might not otherwise receive recognition for their exceptional service to America’s youth. Selection as a recipient of this most prestigious honor is based on the nominee’s contribution as an advocate seeking to improve at-risk conditions affecting America’s youth and communities.
For more information, visit or call 803-750-9868.

City Celebrates National Women's History Month

Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987.
View profiles of featured City Leaders below:
Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine
City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine is a founding partner in the law firm of Jabber & Isaac, PA, where she practices in the areas of real estate, probate and business transactions. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Phoenix in the area of Law. Mrs. Devine is a graduate of Spring Valley High School. She received her undergraduate degree in Business Management from Hampton University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina School of Law. READ MORE
Councilwoman Leona K. Plaugh
Born in Columbia, SC in 1950, Leona is married to Joe Plaugh and has a son and daughter in-law, Allen and Ashley Plaugh who currently live in Atlanta, GA. Leona attended the University of South Carolina where she received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and worked toward a Master of Science Degree. Leona also did advance studies at Harvard University's, John F. Kennedy School of State and Local Government in 2000. READ MORE
City Manager Teresa Wilson
As a municipal trailblazer, City Manager Teresa Wilson leads the executive team for South Carolina’s capital city. Columbia is a fast-paced city that is growing and developing on a daily basis, but City Manager Teresa Wilson is up to the task and she is focused on taking the city’s operations to the next level. On a daily basis, she works diligently to address the needs of residents in the community, while also focusing on public safety and economic development initiatives. Teresa Wilson is a proven leader and has hands on experience working with the business community to develop projects that will be catalysts for future economic growth. READ MORE
Assistant City Manager Missy S. Gentry
Melissa Gentry began working with the City of Columbia as an intern while completing her undergraduate in Civil Engineering at the University of South Carolina.   With over 22 years of experience at the City, she now performs the role of Assistant City Manager over Operations and Development Services.  Prior to that role, she filled various positions during her career to include Civil Engineer, City Engineer and Public Works Director. READ MORE 


City's Street Division Wins SCAPA Award

On February 23, 2016, the City of Columbia’s Street Division was awarded the 2015 Project Delivery Award by the South Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association (SCAPA) for the Columbiana Drive Reconstruction Project.
According to SCAPA, the Project Delivery Award highlights projects that were completed in a timely and efficient manner, and the owner/agency was extremely pleased with the expedited delivery of the project.  These projects typically are completed ahead of schedule, constructed with minimal traffic delay and congestion.  Additionally, the surrounding businesses and homeowners appreciate the partnering efforts of the contractor and owner to ensure exceptional delivery of the projects.
The Columbiana Drive project took 12 weeks to complete from April through July 2015. The City worked with Lane Construction to ensure there would be no traffic disruptions and the project would not interfere with the businesses. The team held a pre-construction meeting with local business owners to go over project details and answer any questions. Then, on a weekly basis, the City of Columbia sent an email that provided an overview of work that happened each week and what was planned to be done in the following week.
Lane Construction and the City of Columbia were awarded the 2015 Project Delivery Award for their efforts on the Columbiana Drive Reconstruction.  The City of Columbia, Town of Irmo, Columbiana Mall and the numerous businesses in the area worked together with Lane and the City to make a much needed road improvement with minimal business and traffic disruption.


Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission Establishing Operations

Dominion Resources, Inc., one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, is expanding its operations in the Southeast. Dominion is committed to investing $10.9 million and relocating their Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission (DCGT) headquarters and operations to Columbia, South Carolina. DCGT owns and operates nearly 1,500 miles of interstate natural gas transmission pipelines in South Carolina and southeastern Georgia.
“Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission is proud to bring new jobs and infrastructure investments to the City of Columbia. We look forward to opening our headquarters in the county seat and state capital,” said Keith Windle, General Manager for Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission. “We look forward to a long partnership with the City of Columbia, Richland County and partners throughout our entire DCGT footprint in South Carolina and Georgia.”
Dominion’s new facility, representing 120,000 square feet of office space located on nine acres, will now house operations and services for Dominion Carolina Gas Transmission. This move comes on the heels of Dominion’s acquisition of Carolina Gas Transmission (CGT) from SCANA Corporation (NYSE: SCG) for approximately $492.9 million in February 2015.  “We are absolutely thrilled to have Dominion Resources joining our business family here in the City of Columbia. Their $10 million investment and the influx of high-quality, high wage-paying jobs demonstrate the tremendous opportunities that are available when you are a business friendly city and home to world-class talent. We are excited to welcome them to Columbia and look forward to a bright and prosperous future together,” said City of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
For more information, contact Brie Logue, Marketing & Communications Manager, City of Columbia Office of Economic Development at 803-734-2732 or [email protected].


President Obama salutes Columbia Police Department for Task Force Implementation