Columbia names new city attorney

sfretwell@thestate.comMay 13, 2014 

— Columbia City Council picked former state probation department lawyer Teresa A. Knox as the city’s new attorney after meeting Tuesday in closed session to discuss finalists for the post.

Knox, an associate of Mayor Steve Benjamin’s when they worked together at the probation agency, will be paid $125,000 and begin work June 2. She will replace Kenneth Gaines, who is retiring after 25 years with the city. He became city attorney in February 2008.

Council’s vote Tuesday was unanimous.

“She’s an excellent attorney,” Benjamin said after the meeting. “She has an impressive temperament and fantastic experience.”

At the Department of Probation Parole and Pardon Services, Knox served as both general counsel and deputy director. She worked at the agency from 2000-2011. Benjamin served as director of the agency.

A University of South Carolina Law School graduate, Knox also is a former assistant state attorney general. Benjamin said she has tried some 3,000 cases. In addition to her legal work, she has taught at DeVry University and the University of Phoenix.

Knox is a Union County native who attended Jonesville High School, graduating in 1983. She received an undergraduate degree from USC-Spartanburg before entering USC law school.

All told, 16 people applied for the city attorney’s job. Columbia leaders chose among four finalists for the post.

“Honestly, I don’t think we could have done wrong” with any of the candidates, Benjamin said but noted that Knox had impressive management experience, as well as legal skills.

In addition to Knox, council considered:

• The city of Columbia’s business opportunities director, Tina Herbert, who is a former Richland County assistant public defender and once practiced law with Benjamin

• University of South Carolina law school graduate Kelly Golden, who formerly worked as a lawyer for the S.C. Association of Counties and the state Ethics Commission

•  John Weaver, a former Horry County attorney who has been in practice some 20 years

The city attorney position was posted on July 26, 2013, and again on Nov. 1, 2013. Gaines’ salary is $141,452. In comparison, the Greenville city attorney earns $184,579, according to Columbia officials. Myrtle Beach’s city attorney earns $128,750.

The Columbia city attorney, like the city manager and municipal judges, reports directly to City Council.

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