Tributes to McLeese pour in from former Midlands leaders - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Tributes to McLeese pour in from former Midlands leaders

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Tributes continue to pour in following the death of Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce Chief Ike McLeese. He died Tuesday after suffering a major heart attack in September.

McLeese is being remembered in particular for organizing a highly successful plan to protect our area's military installations during a round of base closings more than 8 years ago.

That effort in 2005 resulted in what one of our former mayors calls the largest economic development win in the history of the Midlands. Those former officials are saying the man who pulled it off will be very difficult to replace.

To understand the magnitude of what McLeese accomplished, we have to look back to May 2005 as McLeese and several Midlands leaders traveled to Washington DC on a mission.

"Today's trip is the final argument of why we should keep Fort Jackson and McEntire Air National Guard Station open and operating in Columbia," said McLeese.

In Washington, the group delivers petitions containing more than 31,000 signatures. It was just one component of a highly organized, well-financed community-wide campaign spearheaded by McLeese and aimed at convincing Defense Department officials to spare the Columbia area from a program that could downsize up to a quarter of the country's military bases.  

Also on that trip was then-Mayor Bob Coble.

"I think the question was convincing people that they were at risk," said Coble. "To get organized and, you know, put time and resources into an organized battle to make sure that we did everything we could as a community," said Coble.

The effort paid off, not only removing the Midlands military operations from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's hit list, but adding missions at Fort Jackson in particular.

Much of the credit still attributed to McLeese.

Former Columbia Mayor Patton Adams, who like McLeese, served for years as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.

"He had a unique ability to identify people's strengths, individual strengths and to bring together the best strengths that people had to benefit the community," said Adams. "And that certainly was true in our relationship with Fort Jackson and 3rd Army."

Adams held the Civilian Aide job for 15 years. When he stepped down, he was given an emeritus title and says he'd be willing to serve in that capacity temporarily to help in the transition after McLeese's passing.

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