Filing for this year’s municipal elections in Columbia doesn’t open until August, but the race for an at-large seat on City Council continues to draw a crowd.
Deitra Stover Matthews, a Columbia native and government relations manager for the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said she intends to run for an at-large seat on Council. She made her decision official with an announcement at Toliver’s Mane Event Barber Shop on North Main Street.
The seat Matthews is seeking has been held by Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine for nearly 20 years. However, when Mayor Steve Benjamin announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection this year, Devine said she would run for mayor.
Three candidates have announced plans to campaign for Devine’s current seat. Besides Matthews, public health researcher Dr. Aditi Bussells and businesswoman Heather Bauer each have announced their intentions to seek the at-large seat. Attorney Tyler Bailey has told The State he’s seriously considering a run.
“I have been working in the community in some form or capacity for many, many years,” she said. “Even as I served as a military spouse across the country, I’ve always made it a point to serve the community that I lived in. Columbia is my home. I always tell people that Columbia gave me the wings to go and lead.”
Matthews’ husband, Col. Brian Matthews, has been in the U.S. Army for 25 years.
Matthews, 42, is a graduate of Columbia High School and has an undergraduate degree from Coker College, along with a graduate degree from Savannah State University. She is a member of the Prisma Health Children’s Hospital board of directors.
The environment, housing and employment will be among the planks in Matthews’ platform, she said.
She also said she’s committed to helping Columbia become a more equitable city, especially as it emerges from the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I have been working closely with different organizations in Columbia trying to get people vaccinated,” Matthews said. “I’ve been out in the community knocking on doors. As you can probably imagine, there’s a lot of pain out there, a lot of loneliness out there. People are ready for the hardship and pain to go away.
“So, I think we have to not necessarily think about going back to a ‘normal.’ We need to acknowledge and embrace what we have been through together, and create a new, better, equitable normal.”
Unlike district seats in Columbia, at-large seats are elected citywide. Matthews says she looks forward to hitting the campaign trail in all areas of the capital city.
“As I have started making phone calls with people all across the city, I’ve been able to enjoy taking a walk down memory lane with many of them,” she said. “I grew up here. … I literally, throughout my life, have touched every single corner of this city, and I still have ties to every corner of this city. I cannot wait to be able to talk to those individuals that I have known all my life, but I am extremely looking forward to also being able to meet new people.”
The city’s elections will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2, with runoffs on Nov. 16, if necessary. Filing is expected to open in August. Aside from the at-large seat, other posts up for election this year include mayor, District 1 and District 4.