The following article was included in Columbia Business Monthly's May 2011 Women of Influence issue. It has been reprinted with the magazine's permission.
Editor's note: Benjamin also was named one of Columbia Business Monthly's "50 Most Influential People 2011" in the magazine's Jan. 2012 edition.
The daughter of distinguished Attorney Donald Gist — until last month, she was a practicing attorney in his firm — DeAndrea Gist Benjamin has long since dreamed of becoming a judge. That dream comes to fruition this month, when Benjamin assumes her new role as a circuit judge for Richland and Kershaw counties.
“I’ve always had an interest in law and the judicial system,” says Benjamin. “While in college during summer break, I had an opportunity to sit in a court proceeding where Federal District Judge Matthew J. Perry presided. It was then that I first dreamed of becoming a judge.”
Benjamin’s judgeship is the latest in a list of career achievements that includes serving as prosecutor for the S.C. Attorney General’s office, municipal judge for the City of Columbia and assistant solicitor in the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s office. Her other prominent role, of course, is as First Lady of the City of Columbia. Having grown up here, Benjamin says it’s easy to forget how special Columbia really is.
“Most cities don’t have three beautiful rivers running through them. They don’t have a major college or university, let alone six. Most cities don’t have our theaters, museums, art galleries or dance studios, a Fort Jackson or a Riverbanks Zoo. I want Columbians to realize the potential that’s already here and start thinking big about the possibilities.”
One of her passions is the fight against childhood obesity, and she’s excited to be spearheading a project called Let’s MoveColumbia.
“Based on First Lady Michelle Obama’s national model, Let’s Move Columbia takes a sustainable, holistic approach to fighting the childhoodobesity epidemic,” says Benjamin. “[We want to] help parentsmake healthy family choices, improve health in our schools, increasephysical activity and make healthy food affordable and accessible. Thisis a fight for our children’s lives, and I’m proud that the City is leading the charge.”
Last updated 01/26/2012