March 1994

Rev. Charles P. Austin, Sr.

Former City Manager and Chief of Public Safety

Rev. Charles P. Austin, Sr.

Rev. Charles Austin, Sr. remembers watching “Dragnet” as a child and wanting to be like Joe Friday when he grew up. Today, he is responsible for managing the state’s Capital city. He graduated from South Carolina State University and received his master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of South Carolina in 1985. In 2001, Austin received his Master of Divinity degree. “My parents were very instrumental in my early development. They stressed the importance of a sound value system in order to be successful. My father taught me patience, my mother taught me values and positive self-esteem, and a friend, John Henry Meekins, taught me work ethics,” Austin said. “Mr. Meekins paid me $1 a week to empty trash at the local funeral home and to go with him when he had to dig graves. He used to lower me into the graves to measure their depths.” Between his first job in Greenville in 1973 and his current position as City Manager for The City of Columbia, he worked at the State Law Enforcement Division, at South Carolina State University and was Deputy Chief of Police in Chatham County, Georgia. In 1990, he became Columbia’s first African-American chief of police until 2001 when he became its first Assistant City Manager and Commissioner of Public Safety. Austin serves on the Erskine College board of trustees after being elected to that position by the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church. His success can be measured by the respect he receives from his officers, from business leaders and from the community. By creating a safer living environment. Austin knows he is contributing to Columbia’s economic development. “I have always wanted to help people,” said Austin. “I have always believed that the law enforcement system should help the community and serve the people.” Austin has established police satellite offices in public housing areas to suppress the increasing crime rate. The idea has been successful and, consequently, 13 other police “Substations” have been opened in Columbia. In his commitment to improve the downtown area, he has also dispatched teams of officers to ensure safety, and has started a mounted patrol. A gifted teacher, speaker and lecturer, Austin constantly emphasizes the value of a good education. “Education is a process that continues until we are planted six feet under.” Austin says, “We learn something new every day, and the community as a whole is responsible for the education of our children.” Austin participated in numerous community activities, and has received countless honors and recognitions. “In order for you to be a productive citizen, you have to keep your mind, body and soul clean,” Austin tells students. “You must understand what it means to respect the dignity of all people, but you must first have a strong sense of self respect. And, you must understand the necessity of being well mannered and polite. You must also understand conflict resolution, such as walking away from a confrontation, instead of resorting to violence to settle differences. “Most important, you must be well grounded with strong moral and spiritual values that will not only allow you to ‘just say no,’ but will give you the inner strength and confidence to withstand the ridicule from those who will try to persuade you to do wrong. Learn these things and you can live a good, healthy, positive and productive life.”