Biden hires former South Carolina mayor to lead liaison office

 February 28, 2023

President Biden has hired former South Carolina mayor Stephen Benjamin, the latest sign of Biden's favorable feeling toward a southern state that was critical to paving his road to the White House.

Benjamin, the former mayor of Columbia, was hired to serve as director of the Office of Public Engagement.

He replaces former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Biden's new hire

Biden is also taking Benjamin on as a senior adviser.

Benjamin led Columbia as mayor from 2010 to 2021, and he is also president of his own law firm, the Benjamin Firm, LLC.

“Mayor Benjamin is a longtime public servant, who has served the people of South Carolina for over two decades statewide and as a three-term mayor of Columbia,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden praised Benjamin's "deep relationships" as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2018 to 2019 and the president of the African American Mayors Association from 2015 to 2016.


The Office of Public Engagement, formerly known as the Office of Public Liaison, acts as a point of contact between the White House and various stakeholders.

The role of director has seen a lot of turnover since Biden's inauguration. Biden initially tapped Cedric Richmond, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, to the post. Richmond left the White House for a job at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last year.

Richmond was replaced by Bottoms, who is seen by many as a rising star of the Democratic party. She was on Biden's VP short list in 2020.

"Equity" a priority

Biden praised Bottoms for prioritizing his controversial, racially conscious "equity" agenda.

“Under Keisha’s leadership, the Office of Public Engagement has kept equity at the heart of our agenda, and continues to serve as the connective tissue between our Administration and everyday Americans who may not have a voice to reach Washington otherwise,” Biden said.

"I have leaned on Keisha as a close advisor with exceptional instincts, and I am grateful to her for serving our nation with honor and integrity.”

Benjamin's background is noteworthy, as Biden won his party's nomination in 2020 following a pivotal primary victory in South Carolina. Biden has since reshuffled the primary calendar to put South Carolina at the top.

Jaime Harrison, DNC chair and former chair of the South Carolina Democrats, said the new calendar "reflects who we are as a nation."

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