Columbia councilmember announces retirement; local businessman announces campaign

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Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 10:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - At-Large Councilmember Howard E. Duvall, Jr. will not seek reelection following eight years on Columbia City Council, totaling five decades of municipal service in South Carolina.

Duvall, the longest-serving member of the current city council, said his decision to retire came after celebrating his 80th birthday in April.

“I will miss it. Municipal service has meant a lot to me. I’ve got fifty years of doing this type of work. I think I’m pretty good at it. Unfortunately, time moves on and this seat needs to go to a younger person,” said Duvall in his apartment.

The South Carolina native, Citadel alumni, and U.S. Air Force turned S.C. National Guard veteran participated in seven municipal elections during his multi-decade career in government. He never lost a campaign.

He was first elected to his hometown Council of Cheraw, a town on the Pee Dee River in Chesterfield County, in November of 1973. He carried out seven years before serving as a two-term mayor starting in 1980.

“I was the Mayor of Cheraw until I resigned in 1986 to come to Columbia and work for Governor [Richard] Riley in the last year of his administration. I went from there to the Municipal Association [of South Carolina] and retired in 2008 as the Executive Director,” continued Duvall.

In 2015, Duvall was elected to the at-large seat of Columbia City Council. Four years later, he won reelection in what would be his final term of municipal service.

“I’d love to continue my service, but I cannot see four years downstream, being able to do it as vigorously as I have done in the last 50... I’m confident that the City of Columbia can produce good leadership at a younger age,” said Duvall.

Of his many accomplishments in Columbia, Duvall cited his early support for the preparations of the Total Eclipse in August of 2017. The event drew over one million visitors, becoming the largest natural event in South Carolina.

The councilman later became a strong supporter of the ShotSpotter system, a hallmark resource utilized by the Columbia Police Department (CPD) to identify the location of gunfire. It was launched in 2019 and has since been credited for multiple arrests and seizures of weapons.

In five years, Duvall tightened regulations for all-night bars in Five Points, effectively closing 16 bars that did not meet new requirements.

From the pandemic to the present, Duvall’s council has regulated the definition and proximity of vape shops in the capital city, as well as passing an ordinance limiting short-term rentals such as Airbnb’s across two different zip codes.

“My focus has always been on protecting neighborhoods... I answer my telephone and I take care of constituent services. I think, if you talk to some of the constituents that I have helped over the eight years that I’ve been in office, they will testify to the fact that if you call me with the problem, I usually can help you,” said Duvall.

In a statement from Mayor Daniel Rickenmann, he told WIS:

“Councilman Duvall brought experience and a good sense of humor to our City Council. His presence and personality will be missed at City Hall. Hopefully, whoever fills his shoes is as forces of an advocate for our city, our neighborhoods, and our businesses as Howard Duvall has been.”

While more candidates are expected to run for Duvall’s seat, the first person who announced his bid was self-defined entrepreneur and longtime Columbia businessman, Jesse Bullard.

“Being somewhat of a yes-man myself, I see a great opportunity to serve the people of Columbia, being responsive, helping them find solutions, fixing problems, and getting to know the community that much better,” said Bullard in his Exchange Blouvard office.

Originally born in North Carolina, Bullard originally moved to Columbia to attend the University of South Carolina (USC). After working various jobs, he was hired at Southern Way Catering in his senior year of college.

Today, Bullard serves as Vice President and partner of Southern Way. He has started several other successful Columbia-based businesses including Crisp Event Rentals and Doc’s Barbeque which he owns with partners.

“Being accessible to our constituents and being available when they need something done is important… Running for office is something that is new for me. It is not something that I’m afraid of. I’m not a political insider. This is not a stepping stone office to go to some other big level. This is simply an opportunity for me to serve my community,” concluded Bullard.

The election for Duvall’s seat is November 7, 2023.

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