MBFA Executive Chair Steve Benjamin Installed as 76th President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors

Announces Key Priorities—Infrastructure, Innovation, Inclusion—During Inaugural Speech

by Sarah Durr

Columbia, SC—Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin became the 76th President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) in an inaugural ceremony on Monday, May 7, 2018.  As part of the ceremony, Mayor Benjamin delivered a keynote speech announcing his key priorities for the year ahead, which will focus on three central themes—Infrastructure, Innovation and Inclusion.

Typically, the Conference’s President is inaugurated at USCM’s Annual Meeting. However, since the mayoral term of current USCM President, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, ended on May 7, a special inauguration was scheduled for Mayor Benjamin, who has served as Vice President of USCM this year.  Mayor Benjamin will now serve the balance of Mayor Landrieu’s presidential term, which would have ended in June 2018, in addition to a full one-year term as President of the organization until June 2019.  As President, Mayor Benjamin will preside over all official meetings and develop and advocate for the bipartisan agenda adopted by the nation’s mayors.

“I am honored and grateful to lead the nation’s mayors as I assume the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Mayors,” said Mayor Benjamin. “I look forward to working with mayors across the country to identify strategic, bipartisan solutions that can bring about real change. Now, more than ever, Americans want politicians to put aside their partisan differences and work together for the common good. Mayors do this every day. They show up, deliver results and show people that there’s a different way to get things done.”

Mayor Benjamin announced that his key priorities for his presidency will focus on the “three I’s”: Infrastructure, Innovation and Inclusion.  In terms of infrastructure, he said, “Our cities and metropolitan economies now represent 85.7% of America’s population; 87.7% of total employment; and nearly 91% of our nation’s total GDP. The incredible growth that we are seeing in our cities shows no signs of stopping.  Mayors need a partner in Washington that recognizes that investments in smart infrastructure, green infrastructure will put Americans to work, strengthen our great cities and set the course for a New American century.”

Mayor Benjamin also highlighted that he will focus attention on all aspects of innovation. “We must leverage data, our collective wisdom and sound public policy to foster the natural incubators of innovation that cities are today.  We must ensure access to broadband and prepare ourselves for the changes that are coming through automation and artificial intelligence so that our children are ready for opportunities yet unknown,” he said.

The third pillar of Mayor Benjamin’s presidency will concentrate on inclusion.  “Regardless of what emits from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the halls of Congress, or even our state Houses at times, mayors will lead the way towards what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”  Mayors will ensure that different points of view and life experiences will be respected regardless of national origin, faith, race, sexual orientation, geography or party affiliation.  We will continue to bridge the divides in our communities and work to build consensus without compromising our core values of decency, compassion and respect.”

To view Mayor Benjamin’s full speech, please see here.

“Today, Mayor Benjamin becomes America’s Mayor,” said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO & Executive Director.  “He will carry a bipartisan message based on honest conversations with mayors to drive real and meaningful change for our nation.  For 85 years, the United States Conference of Mayors has come together to work on issues that have shaped our cities and guided our nation’s success. Whether it’s healthcare, housing, crime, civil rights, transportation or the environment, mayors have the led the way.  We welcome Mayor Benjamin and look forward to his leadership this year.”

Mayor Benjamin will preside over his first official meeting in Boston for USCM’s 86th Annual Meeting from June 8 – 11, 2018, when the nation’s mayors will assemble to develop their bipartisan agenda and discuss the ways mayors are solving problems in their cities.

Since being elected mayor in a record turnout election in April 2010, Mayor Benjamin has made it his mission to create in Columbia the most talented, educated and entrepreneurial city in the nation. In his first term alone, his leadership cut unemployment in the city by roughly half and secure billions of dollars in new regional capital investment.