Outstanding Public Official Interview with Lee County Chancery Clerk Bill Benson

Bill Benson photo

The Center for Government and Community Development works closely with many public officials throughout the state of Mississippi. From Lee County, MS, Bill Benson is one of those public officials. Mr. Benson is the Lee County Chancery Clerk and is one of the exceptional colleagues we have the pleasure of working with. We interviewed Mr. Benson to highlight his success within his county. As chancery clerk, he performs many duties within the operation of the county. Serving as the clerk for the board of supervisors and chancery court, he maintains land records and public documents that are vital to the success of the county. Additionally, the chancery clerk maintains many fiduciary responsibilities within the county. Mr. Benson is an outstanding public official in the state of Mississippi.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be Chancery Clerk of Lee County, MS?

Benson: I went to work for the State Auditor’s Office in 1981 doing audits of local government and later moving into Technical Assistance. This introduced me to County Government and the Chancery Clerk’s office. I lost an election for Clerk in 1987 and went to work for Monroe County as the County Administrator. There I worked with one of the best Clerks in the State, Howard Moon, who served as a great mentor and teacher. With tremendous support from friends and family, I was elected in 1991 and took office January of 1992.

Q: What does a normal day usually entail (in respect to your duties as Chancery Clerk)?

Benson: There aren’t many normal days in the Clerk’s office. We work with the Board of Supervisors on financial issues such as budgeting and payment of claims along with economic development projects. The Clerk is the County Treasurer so we also work with our investments for the county. We also work with our Chancery Judges on a daily basis. We typically have Court in Lee County every day. We collect prior year property taxes and there is usually some issue daily. We file over 15,000 documents in our land records every year. We handle the administrative process with mental commitments and that is a daily event. I am currently an appointed Conservator on ten active cases and serving as the administrator in one estate. These take a tremendous amount of time and I receive multiple calls daily.

Q: What is your favorite part about being Chancery Clerk?

Benson: The people that I work with, and for here in Lee County, are the best part of being Chancery Clerk. I’m fortunate to have a great staff and we have a great working relationship with the other county officials. Together, we are able to help the citizens of the county and that is what it is all about.

Q: What advice would you give other local government officials in the state of Mississippi?

Benson: Have a great staff because they are the ones that make things happen and take care of you. I’m very blessed to have a staff that takes care of me. Also, have a good relationship with the other officials. It takes everyone pulling in the same direction. Most importantly, just try to do what is right and everything normally works out. As I mentioned earlier, Howard Moon was a great example for me.

Q: Other than serving as Chancery Clerk, in what other ways do you serve your community or state?

Benson: I serve as the county representative on the Public Employees Retirement Board. I’m currently the President of the Chancery Clerks’ Association. I’m a member and song director at Brewer United Methodist Church.

Q: When did you first become aware of the Center for Government and Community Development?

Benson: I’ve worked with the Center since my days with the Auditor’s office in the early 1980’s. It wasn’t called that at the time, but Extension helped the counties and municipalities with educational programs then. I worked with them on programs while I was in Technical Assistance and then was on the receiving end once I became employed by county government. I’ve worked with them nearly my entire professional career.

Q: How is/has the Center for Government and Community Development (been) important to you?

Benson: It has been important to me as a way to educate public officials on the duties and responsibilities of our offices. The Center has always been on the leading edge of the education process and has provided quality programs that help us do our jobs legally and effectively. They have also helped us research issues that affect us and collect the necessary data for an informed solution.

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lee county, bill benson, interview, public official