Municipal bond advocate Stephen Benjamin joins The Charleston Group
Columbia, South Carolina, mayor Stephen Benjamin, a public finance veteran and municipal bond advocate, has joined The Charleston Group, a boutique law firm based in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Benjamin said he will continue to serve as mayor, a position he has held since April 2010, while he works of counsel primarily as a public finance attorney. He has opened The Charleston Group’s office in Columbia, he said in an interview Wednesday.
“This is a good, flexible opportunity for me to focus on my office duties as mayor and to start a much more active practice of law,” Benjamin said. “This is a unique opportunity with a boutique firm that has a regional presence and has national clients.
“It’s a new phase in life. I’m excited about it,” he added.
Benjamin said he will also continue to advocate for tax exempt bonds at the nonpartisan Municipal Bonds for America, where he is chairman of the executive committee.
“As long as we have congressional people and an administration that needs to be constantly educated on the importance of tax exempt financing and what it means to help build and rebuild infrastructure, I'll be actively involved in MBFA,” he said.
At The Charleston Group, Benjamin will co-chair the firm's public finance and affordable housing practices.
R. Jonathan Charleston, managing principal, said Benjamin’s experience with bonds and other revenue-based obligations used by local governments position the law firm for more rapid growth.
"Mayor Benjamin has earned a national reputation. He brings a depth of experience in public finance and other practice areas, including transaction, real estate, government relations and regulatory matters," Charleston said. "We are honored to have Mayor Benjamin, and his track record for delivering results, as a member of our firm."
Benjamin said his current term as mayor expires Dec. 31, 2021. He is eligible for reelection but hasn’t decided if he will run again, he said. There are no term limits in Columbia.
“We are able to practice law or earn another kind of living while serving as mayor,” he said, adding that he was bond counsel for the city before becoming mayor.
For the past five years, he’s worked in his own practice and is currently serving as underwriters’ counsel on a few deals in Mississippi, he said.
Benjamin has served as president of the United States Conference of Mayors and as president of the African American Mayors Association. He is a member of the Accelerator for America Advisory Council and co-chair of the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy campaign.
He’s also been a member of the Affordable Housing Advisory Council for Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and a member of the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development Board. He has received numerous awards for leadership, environmental and preservation efforts and business advocacy.
In 2019, Benjamin was a presenter at the National Association of Bond Lawyers Workshop on efforts pertaining to the importance of tax-exempt municipal bonds.
Benjamin received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of South Carolina. He began practicing law in 1994, and worked on his first public finance deal around 2004.
The Charleston Group said it has “one of the most experienced public finance practices of any minority-owned firm in the country.”
The firm has five public finance attorneys and two locations, in Columbia, South Carolina, and Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The company’s attorneys have represented issuers as bond and disclosure counsel and as underwriters' counsel to investment banks.
The company’s lawyers have also represented clients in cases of commercial breach of warranty, medical negligence, accident and wrongful death, and other kinds of litigation, according to the firm’s website.