Columbia mayor responds to rumors he wanted to be president of USC

In this file photo, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin delivers the State of the City address at City Hall.
In this file photo, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin delivers the State of the City address at City Hall.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is not seeking to be University of South Carolina’s next president, he said Friday.

Asked whether Benjamin wanted to serve as the next president of the state’s flagship school, Benjamin said in a text message: “No. USC has been an important past of my life and success, but that is a misinformed rumor.”

Benjamin, who has been mayor of Columbia since 2010, held several leadership positions at USC during his time there. In 1990, Benjamin served as student body president. Before graduating USC School of Law in 1994, he was the Student Bar Association’s president, according to Benjamin’s website.

“I served as a student member of the USC presidential search committee way back in 1990. It is a rigorous process,” Benjamin said.

Since USC President Harris Pastides has announced his retirement, set for July 31, several names have cropped up as possible successors. President Donald Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was once interested in the job but his staff said in January that was no longer the case. Top S.C. Republicans have publicly said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Kershaw Democrat who is spearheading the most ambitious proposal to overhaul S.C. higher education funding in a decade, would make an “excellent choice” to be the school’s next president.

The university is keeping its selection process secret until it has selected top candidates.

“We will not discuss applicants or rumored candidates,” USC spokesman Wes Hickman has said. “Nor will we identify applicants until we have four finalists.”

Lucas Daprile has been covering the University of South Carolina and higher education since March 2018. Before working for The State, he graduated from Ohio University and worked as an investigative reporter at TCPalm in Stuart, FL. There, where he won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his political and environmental coverage.