By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
LUMBERTON — Terrance Benson, a longtime law enforcement officer, is the mayor of Lumberton Township, the second African American ever to hold the post, with the help of a saying he uses daily: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t.'”
Benson was elevated to the mayor’s position in January by his peers on the township committee with the support of former Mayor Gina LaPlaca. They are both running for re-election in November. A 23-year police veteran, he was first elected to council in 2020.
Benson and LaPlaca are set to face Republicans Mark Galey and Christopher Tommins in November.
“I was already involved in the political arena through my work with the New Jersey State PBA so I felt like it was all part of the growing process of becoming that dreaded word politician,” Benson told Front Runner New Jersey.com. “To me, the word politician is such a harsh word, I’ve always considered myself a voice for the people.”
Benson said he had embraced the role of a correctional police officer and mayor to show young African American men and women that they have a voice and to use that voice to make a positive impact in their community. He said that starts with voting.
“I was always taught you can’t complain if you don’t vote,” Benson said. “There’s a long list of people who inspired me; starting with my parents, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Barack Obama, Cory Booker, and even my former elementary school teacher Mrs. Linda Ziegler, who always encouraged me to be the best I could be, even when I wasn’t the best student.
“My father always taught us that all you have in this world is your name, and if you mess that up, you’re going to have a rough time navigating life.”
Benson said two of his older siblings were in corrections as well. His late brother Lamont was a lieutenant with the New Jersey Department of Corrections who served for 25 years prior to his passing. His oldest brother Wallace, who is currently employed by Burlington County, has been serving for 19 years.
“I worked my way up through the PBA Union executive board, where I eventually became the president of the Officers Union,” Benson said. “I also held the honor of being the state delegate for the Officers Union as well.
“During this time, I was promoted to the NJSPBA executive board of delegates by the current President Pat Coleghan, where prior to my promotion to correctional police sergeant at the county jail, I ascended to the rank of 8th vice president on the executive board.”
Benson said he always had a passion for helping others in the workplace, ensuring everyone received equal and fair treatment.
“I’d like to credit the NJSPBA for fostering and feeding this passion by educating myself and other delegates about the laws which have a negative or positive effect on LEOs, and actually putting us in the room with those policymakers to have an opportunity to voice our likes or dislikes about the potential policies.”
Benson said his law enforcement experience has given him the unique opportunity to interact with many different types of personalities, under one large roof. He said he learned how valuable patience was in his work, along with being firm, fair, and consistent.
The Rest of the Story
Benson touched on various other topics in his interview this past spring with Front Runner New Jersey.com.
FRNJ: Tell me where you grew up and your family. Just anything you’d like to share.
Terrance Benson: I was born and raised in Beverly, where I attended Beverly City Elementary School, and then onto Palmyra High School where I participated in football, basketball all four years, along with a small stint on the track team throwing the shot put. I am the youngest of 5 children of Wallace and Esther Benson Sr. I have two sons Andre and Terrance Jr. My father worked for the Fairless Hills, Pa. steel mill, for several years and he worked for Elkin-Sinn pharmaceutical company in Cherry Hill, until his retirement. My mother worked for the Sears Warehouse in Pennsauken until her retirement. During those years both parents worked side jobs which included Handyman jobs, performing janitorial services for RCA in Westhampton. My mother’s passion was hairdressing which was performed in our home kitchen.
Growing up as the youngest child in the house had its advantages, and disadvantages due to my older siblings always being on the go. I was exposed to working with my father when he worked his janitorial, and handyman side jobs, and had to be up early Saturday mornings to perform yard work, which included grass cutting, edging, and bush trimming all of which has played a role in helping me become the man I am today.
FRNJ: What do you want people to remember you by once your term for mayor is done?
Terrance Benson: I would like to be remembered during my stint as committeemen and now mayor as a representative and voice for the residents of the community. I would hope that my time as mayor would give hope to those who look like me, and aspire to join the ranks of public servants. Everyone has a voice, but how you use your voice is what’s important.
I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, I had to work for everything that I gained in this lifetime. Because I didn’t take the traditional route of graduating college with a degree that involved something attached to the political world, I knew I had to work harder than most, and was prepared to do whatever it took to become a successful and productive citizen.
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