Twelve years ago, Steve Benjamin made history by being elected as the first Black Mayor of the Capital City in Columbia, South Carolina. Benjamin said he was on a mission to ensure everyone felt that they belonged in Columbia.
During his tenure in office, Benjamin steered Columbia through a disastrous flood, the onslaught of a global pandemic, and the nation’s current focal point of racism and social injustice, reports News 19.
While he no longer occupies a seat in City Hall, his time as the first Black mayor of Columbia “fills him with warmth.” He keeps a photo as a memento on his office’s wall to remind him of his sacrifices that allowed him to become an elected official and is honored to wear the cufflinks of Reverend John Wilson.
Benjamin says he holds a responsibility to young people to serve as a role models to realize their dreams are possible. He is satisfied that the work he did “[kept] the city together.”
“Taxes were cut citywide, 8 out of 11 years we finished with a budget surplus, we got Bull Street up and running; the largest redevelopment project in any downtown east of the Mississippi. Main Street is revitalized,” Benjamin said to news station.
“There’s so much that we did, but we’ve been working our way through the greatest pandemic since 1918, the greatest economic disruption in many people’s lives since 1932, the greatest social unrest that people have seen maybe since 1968, and we did it all within the span of just a few years. We had the greatest natural disaster the city had ever been through in 2015; we lost 19 precious lives,” he adds.
Benjamin believes crisis births leaders, and titles do not create leaders. He says, “the temporary spaces we occupy in our professional lives are just that.”
Now, Benjamin looks forward to spending time with his family as a private citizen and overseeing his successful law firm. He will maintain community involvement on both local and national levels and is delighted to teach at Harvard this Spring.
Benjamin wants residents to remember him as the mayor who believed in Columbia and took initiatives in the best interest of the city’s citizens.