Success Magazine, September 2010
By, Ascellia M. Arenas
Russell Benford, City Manager of North Miami, has a strong presence that commands attention and respect. He conveys approachable warmth that makes him the type of leader that people are naturally drawn to. He first became interested in leadership through a close mentoring relationship with high school Principal, Locke Beachum, who was also a city councilman. At East High, in Youngstown Ohio, Beachum spent time mentoring Russell. With nurturing and support from his mother, Rose Benford, and his grandmother, Henrietta Young, Benford earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree at Oberlin College, and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs at University of Texas at Austin. While at Oberlin College, in Ohio, he applied for the Woodrow Wilson fellowship. He attended graduate school as a Woodrow Wilson Public Policy and International Studies fellow. Benford developed a passion and a plan that would guide him through 16 years of Public Administration and Leadership.
In 2000, Benford was the first black employee for the Village of Hawthorn Woods in Chicago, Illinois where he served as Chief Administrator. While vacationing in South Florida he became enamored with the tropical breezes and rich cultural diversity. He desired engagement in a wider range of cultural diversity: and, that lead him to pursue leadership opportunities in South Florida. In 2005, he was hired by the City of West Park to be Chief Administrator. Benford states, “West Park was a chance to help a community that needed [his] leadership.” He became aware of the position of City Manager for North Miami through public posting. He credits his success to preparedness and established relationships with recruiters who were working to fill the position with the most qualified applicant. Benford states, “It is important to develop relationships with recruiters so that they can get to know you and find the right position for you”. Benford recommends that anyone seeking high level positions should research and involve themselves with reputable recruitment firms.
In fulfillment of the mission statement to enhance the quality of life for the citizens of North Miami, Benford happily calls himself a “work-aholic”. He actively mentors by including the Interns from the Youth Empowerment Program in meetings and demonstrates how networking can bring them closer to their dreams. He believes in the stabilization of the city of North Miami through purchasing foreclosed homes and providing first-time-homebuyers the opportunity to buy refurbished homes in the city. He says, “Homeownership instills pride in the community”. Beyond the ribbon cutting, supporting camp programs, community activities, and meetings Benford credits his successful leadership style with including the community and all of the people he works with when making tough decisions. He states, “I seek input from my co-workers”, this he believes, also empowers his staff. He relies upon his support system of City Mangers, for input as well. Russell Benford meets quarterly with City Mangers of South Florida to discuss planning and implementation. In regard to future aspirations he states, “If I work hard today, the future will take care of itself”.