So, who is the mayor-elect of Columbia?
By Charleston Mercury Staff
Dr. Laura Rickenmann; Daniel Rickenmann, mayor elect; Ellie Rickenmann and Carlyle Rickenmann. Images provided.
When Daniel Rickenmann chose not to seek a third term as one of Columbia’s at-large council members in 2012, fellow councilwoman Tameika Devine lamented losing “our most effective member.” Now, almost ten years later, Rickenmann has won a close mayoral race against Devine to lead Columbia into the completion of several ongoing restoration and development projects — Finlay Park, Bull Street District and Three Rivers Greenway — and catch up to Charleston and Greenville in terms of economic growth.
Rickenmann graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1992. His entrepreneurial successes in the restaurant industry, food production and renewable energy development familiarized him with the challenges facing Columbia’s development goals, and he began an eight-year stint in Columbia City Council in 2004 and was credited with helping Columbia regain financial stability. After returning to city council in 2017, he created his mayoral platform around issues of public safety, small business support, affordable housing, infrastructure repair and streamlining city government.
Rickenmann and his wife, pediatrician Dr. Laura Rickenmann, have two daughters, Carlyle and Ellie.
Charleston Mercury: How did you as a Republican overcome the fact that Columbia voters are overwhelmingly Democrats and Biden supporters?
Daniel Rickenmann: I knocked on more than 20,000 doors in the city of Columbia. This wasn’t about R or D, red or blue or anything going on in Washington. This race was about Columbia needing better sidewalks, about making our city friendlier to business and about making sure that nobody in our community is left behind. We built a coalition that believes Columbia’s best days are ahead, and I am excited to get to work building our city for a stronger future.
CM: What municipal matters concerning larger South Carolina cities are your top priorities? And on what issues should Charleston, Columbia, Greenville and Myrtle Beach be able to join forces?
Daniel: The city of Columbia has unique issues: Our taxes are the highest, our bureaucracy is cumbersome and unfriendly to investment in our community and our infrastructure has been neglected for far too long. We want to work with Charleston, Greenville and Myrtle Beach to incorporate some of their unique solutions but we also want to compete with these cities and put Columbia back on top.
CM: As to a political flavor of the day, would you say you identify more with Glenn Youngkin or Donald Trump and why?
Daniel: I’m a first generation American citizen with a learning disability who was raised by a single mother. I’ve owned businesses and served Columbia on city council. Most of all, I’m a citizen and taxpayer in our great city. I want our story to be different than any story ever told and I want to be measured by the successes we have inside city limits, not anything that happens outside our community.
CM: What do you think is behind the trend of Republican leaders winning over blue cities, districts and states?
Daniel: I think our campaign was focused on the basics, the issues people truly cared about. We want to lower your utility bill and streamline your interactions with city government. We want to alleviate the burden on your pocketbooks and make our streets safe to enjoy. It doesn’t really matter your political party — those issues resonate.
CM: What do you hope to see come out of the Biden administration that will benefit Columbia specifically?
Daniel: I hope to see the Biden administration move quickly to send us this critical money for infrastructure. We have so many unfinished projects and steel plates on our roads and the federal government is giving us a very rare opportunity to solve these issues without bankrupting our city or increasing the burden to taxpayers and businesses.
CM: What can you tell us about your plan to streamline city government?
Daniel: We need to give our staff more autonomy to speed up the permitting processes. We need to invest in the latest technology to make sure everyone in city government is trained in being effective and efficient. From permitting to paying your water bill, I want to see a city government that prides itself on convenience and quality of service. This will make us attractive to outside investment and a place our citizens are proud to call home.
CM: We know that growth is one of your platforms as mayor. Charleston and Greenville have grown at a much higher rate than Columbia, but they are also dealing with the problems that come from unbalanced growth such as stressed infrastructure, traffic, and quality of life issues. How do you plan to avoid these?
Daniel: We have a unique opportunity to invest in Columbia. We’ve got so much money coming down from the federal government that we can rebuild our city’s infrastructure and make our whole city connected. We want to invest in every community in Columbia so that our people and families can grow.
Franklin McGuire, Noah Yi, Daniel Rickenmann, Laird Weaver, Miranda Unthank and Will Unthank, members of the campaign working with Heritage Brands.