Melanie Huggins, executive director of Richland Library in Columbia, S.C., and Elise Partin, Mayor of the City of Cayce, S.C., will team up to present a keynote on their experiences becoming leaders in the Midlands.

melanie-hugginsIn her time at Richland Library, Melanie Huggins has introduced a new focus for strategic planning that involves all staff, rebranded the library system based on customer feedback, received well over $1 million in grants, and helped usher Richland Library into the national spotlight, making it one of the top 15 libraries in the country and a 2016 finalist for the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal. A vocal advocate for service design and design thinking, she continues to lead the implementation of a 10-year capital plan that includes expansion and renovation of all locations based on the changing roles of libraries. Huggins is an active member of the American Library Association and was named the 2012 South Carolina Outstanding Librarian by the South Carolina Library Association. She served on the Urban Libraries Council Executive Board from 2012-2016 and has also served on the IMLS National Task Force to Define 21st Century Skills for Museums and Public Libraries. In 2015, she was recognized internationally by Denmark’s Dokk1 on their Wall of Inspiration. Huggins was selected for South Carolina’s Liberty Fellow Class of 2017, serves on the City Center Partnership Board and is the Director-at-Large for the Public Library Association.


Mayor Elise Partin has been recognized for her focus on economic development, her strong representation of Cayce’s diverse residents, her fostering of open communication, and her efforts to promote regionalism and ethics reform while protecting taxpayer dollars. She serves on the Executive Board of the Municipal Association of South Carolina and on the Board of the Central Midlands Council of Governments; the Joint Municipal Water and Sewer Commission of Lexington County; the Lexington County Development Corporation; and the River Alliance. Partin was named as one of the “Top Women of Influence” by Southeast Small Business Magazine in 2014 and was selected to attend the 2016 Mayors’ Institute for City Design, which accepts only 8 mayors nationally per year from cities of Cayce’s size. She is actively working to create an arts hospitality corridor along State Street in Cayce and recently confirmed a plan to replace all of Cayce’s water lines in 2017. Under her leadership, Cayce has been recognized both in the top 10 most tax-friendly places to retire in S.C. and as the number one city in S.C. for recent graduates and millennials.



Mike Crapps, president and CEO of First Community Bank, will speak about his use of Southern mannerisms in a modern business world. Under Crapps’ leadership, First Community Bank has experienced significant growth, despite fluctuations in the economy. Along with serving as chief executive officer and president of First Community Bank, he is also a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte Brand Board of Directors. Crapps is an activist in the community and serves as chairman of the Navigating from Good to Great Foundation Board of Directors, the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Clemson University Foundation Board of Directors and the Midlands Business Leadership Group.


Michaela Pilar Brown and Darion McCloud, Columbia-based creative entrepreneurs, will co-present a talk about addressing important, human-experience issues through art. Both local artists have committed their lives to making statements on larger issues via artistic expression, and have both been critically acclaimed locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.


A multidisciplinary visual artist who also employs photography, installation and performance art, Michaela Pilar Brown has exhibited her work across the Southeast, in Washington, D.C. and beyond, and has been featured in Art Basel Miami, ARTFIELDS in Lake City, S.C. and Columbia Museum of Art. She studied at Howard University and has completed several artist-in-residencies, including at Sedona Arts Center in Az., Kunstlerwerkgemeinschaft in Germany and McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, N.C. Brown recently launched “Mike Brown Contemporary,” a mobile pop-up exhibition specializing in bringing contemporary art to public spaces. Brown serves as a facilitator with Artists U, a grassroots nonprofit built to provide artists with open-source materials for professional development and strategic planning.


Darion McCloud is an actor, director, storyteller, educator and arts advocate, serving as the founder and creative director of NiA Theatre Company; creator of Story Squad (a children’s literacy theatrical troupe); company member of Trustus Theatre and S.C. Shakespeare Company; Vice President of the Friends of African American Art Affiliate of Columbia Museum of Art and a Riley Institute Diversity Fellow. A formally trained visual artist, McCloud relocated his talents to performance art, and holds more than 15 performing arts credits; eight directing roles and four storytelling acknowledgements. He was recently recognized with a Literacy Leaders Award from the USC School of Library and Information Science and the South Carolina State Library.