Stephen K. Benjamin

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Stephen K. Benjamin
Benjamin021.jpg
36th Mayor of Columbia
Incumbent
Assumed office
July 2010
Preceded byBob Coble
Personal details
Born(1969-12-01) December 1, 1969 (age 44)
Queens, New York
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)DeAndrea Gist
 
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Stephen K. Benjamin
Benjamin021.jpg
36th Mayor of Columbia
Incumbent
Assumed office
July 2010
Preceded byBob Coble
Personal details
Born(1969-12-01) December 1, 1969 (age 44)
Queens, New York
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)DeAndrea Gist

Stephen K. "Steve" Benjamin (born December 1, 1969) is the Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina. He started his term in July 2010, and is the first African-American mayor in the city's history. Before serving as mayor, he worked in the Columbia metropolitan area as an attorney and served on various charitable organizations. On November 5, 2013, Benjamin won reelection for mayor with 64% of the vote, allowing him to remain mayor for four more years.[1]

Early life, education, and career[edit]

Benjamin's parents are from Orangeburg, SC but he was born in Queens, New York during the 1960s when many African-Americans decided to relocate to the North for better economic opportunities. Benjamin spent his childhood growing up in New York City where his parents, Sam and Maggie Benjamin, worked numerous jobs to support Steve and his elder brother Samuel. After a stable adolescence in New York, Benjamin relocated back to Columbia where he was admitted into the University of South Carolina to study Political Science.

During his studies, Benjamin became active in many student organizations that influenced his career path. He was actively involved in the student chapter of NAACP, eventually becoming president. Benjamin was also elected as student body president during his undergraduate career and went on to become president of the University of South Carolina School of Law student bar association during his third year. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. fraternity.

Previous positions and works[edit]

Benjamin was the principal of the Benjamin Law Firm, LLC, in Columbia, SC where his practice emphasized governmental strategic planning, administrative and regulatory work, municipal finance and general business matters.

On March 2, 1999, Benjamin was appointed to the Governor's Cabinet by Governor Jim Hodges. Benjamin has also served as the Chief Executive of the law enforcement agency, Regional Manager of Public Affairs for International Paper Company, Manager of Corporate Affairs at Carolina Power & Light Company. He additionally worked as an Associate in the Administrative and Regulatory practice of the prominent McNair Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina.

He currently practices with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.[2][3]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Community and state involvement[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Benjamin is married to DeAndrea Gist, who serves as a Judge in South Carolina's Fifth Judicial Circuit. Together they have two daughters, Bethany and Jordan Grace.[4]

Controversies[edit]

Election night car accident

The morning after being elected mayor, Benjamin was involved in a serious car accident. In the early morning hours of April 21, 2010, Benjamin was on his way to an interview with WLTX when the SUV he was driving collided with another vehicle. Benjamin did not sustain serious injuries, but the driver of the other vehicle, Deborah Rubens spent the next two months in the hospital suffering from a brain injury, a broken pelvis, a broken collarbone and a broken leg. Benjamin paid an $87 fine for driving with his lights off. Rubens was charged with driving without insurance. Benjamin was seen drinking alcohol less than four hours before the accident, but police did not administer a breathalyzer. The accident was investigated by the Columbia City Police and not by the State Highway Patrol. Police Chief Tandy Carter felt there was no conflict of interest with his office being the investigating agency in the case. He said there has been too much outside influence by politicians. Carter was fired in May 2010 before of the way his office handled the case. Benjamin later agreed to unspecified payments to Rubens. Documents stated that the factual circumstances surrounding the case remain in dispute, and Benjamin denies liability for Rubens' injuries.[5]

Palmetto Compress building

Benjamin led a deeply divided city council to use $7M dollars from an account used for health care benefits for city employees and retirees to buy the Palmetto Compress building. The former cotton warehouse on Blossom Street was slated to be torn down to make room for a public-private dorms for students at the University of South Carolina. Benjamin wanted to preserve the dilapidated building and flip it to another developer.

Columbia Police department

Columbia has had three police chiefs during Benjamin's tenure as mayor. When he was sworn into office, Carl Burke was serving as interim police chief. Burke took over after Tandy Carter was fired for the way he handled the investigation of Benjamin's election night car accident. Burke retired from state government on October 15, 2010. He was replaced by former Richland county sheriff's deputy Randy Scott on the recommendation of Sheriff Leon Lott. Scott officially retired on December 31, 2012. City council led by Steve Benjamin rehired him two weeks later in a move designed to circumvent changes in state retirement system.

2013 Election[edit]

Benjamin will face Columbia city councilman Moe Baddourah in the November 5, 2013 election. This is the first time that Columbia city elections will be held in November. In prior years, elections were held for the spring.

References[edit]

External links[edit]