A native of South Carolina, Dylan Gunnels is one of Columbia’s up-and-coming young professionals with a vision of a brighter and more equitable Columbia. Dylan is a local activist, community leader, and entrepreneur. He currently serves as the Refugee Services Coordinator for a local non-profit where he oversees job development and economic stimulus for the refugee/immigrant population in Columbia. His entrepreneurial efforts are centered on financial literacy and personal development, with a belief that sound financial training and leadership principles are a necessity in any arena.
The oldest of seven children, Dylan learned early on the importance of responsibility, leadership, and serving as a positive role model within his blended family. Those rooted values formed a drive in Dylan that has continued throughout his lifetime. At only 12 years old, Dylan decided to start his own lawn care business. He spent his summers helping his neighbors and learning how to manage a business. At 14, he decided to get a job at a local restaurant washing dishes, which eventually led to a promotion serving tables. These employment ventures came naturally to Dylan, without the urging of his parents.
Dylan graduated from South Aiken High School in 2011 with Honors. During his time at South Aiken, Dylan served as Class President, Executive Committee President, Band President, and NJROTC Operations Officer. He also played varsity tennis and volunteered extensively with Relay for Life and the city of Aiken. Dylan went on to graduate from Charleston Southern University in 2015 with Honors, where he received his BA in Theology and a Minor in Music. Dylan served as the Student Body President for two years, as well as the Speaker of the House in South Carolina Student Legislatures. He participated in wind ensemble, jazz band, brass quintet, and music theater. He continued volunteer efforts with Relay for Life and the city of Charleston. Dylan was also given the opportunity to pastor a local church while still a student.
Dylan moved to Columbia after graduation and has continued his professional career in the city that he loves. True leadership and equity are Dylan’s guiding principles. Along his journey, he has built upon his leadership experiences taking on new ventures to hone his skills. He’s been involved in reputable and highly sought after leadership development opportunities. In 2019, he graduated from Leadership Columbia, the Columbia Chamber’s development program that identifies and motivates emerging community leaders; provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on social and community awareness; and challenges participants to apply their talents within their community while providing an opportunity to become involved.
Building on his Leadership Columbia experience, Dylan became a member of the Community Leadership Corps in Columbia, an opportunity for young people to come together and develop projects that address opportunities and challenges in their community. During this six-month program, Dylan chose to work on a special project, and founded The Agape Table, an organization dedicated to fighting for true equity in faith spaces, with the hope that other LGBT+ individuals will not have to endure the same painful journey to discovering their true self, their true faith, and their true community.
Dylan has witnessed Columbia’s growth and the promising future that it holds for its residents and visitors; however, he has grown to realize that so much more can be done sooner to improve the lives of everyone and to make Columbia a destination city for everyone, including businesses, leaders, and tourists. That’s why economic development, infrastructure improvements, business retention, food insecurity, and the rest of his platform are important to him.
Dylan is running for City Council At-Large because there are real issues affecting real people – people that he cares about. He hopes to be a leader who will inspire people. Who will inspire the city and unite the community with a vision for a brighter future. Dylan dreams of a world in which equity and inclusion are the centerpiece of community and hopes to play at least a small role in that. He believes that when a community rallies behind something, that community can make a difference.
The two joys of his life are his dogs – Samson and Delilah. Dylan enjoys spending time with his friends and family, continued involvement in the local church, hiking, kayaking down the river, reading, writing, and playing music.