Pressing Forward: Mayor Turner Appoints Media Veteran Mary Benton as Interim Press Secretary

ABOVE: Mary Benton

After weeks of unsavory news reports and questions surrounding the role of the previous press secretary, there has been a change at Houston City Hall.

Longtime media and communications professional Mary Benton has been appointed to replace Darian Ward as the new interim press secretary for the city of Houston.

Mayor Sylvester Turner, who accepted the immediate resignation of Ward this past Friday, January 26th, assured the citizens of Houston that the addition of Benton would be an added benefit to his administration.

“The addition of Mary Benton to our team brings even more experience and expertise to our work of keeping Houstonians informed about their government’s many actions on their behalf, such as reducing flooding, restoring the city’s financial health, leveraging our status as a welcoming community that is the nation’s most diverse, and much, much more,” said Mayor Turner.

Benton does bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to City Hall.

Benton grew up in Harlingen, and prior to coming to Houston, she worked at several television stations in Waco and Austin. She worked as a news reporter for KPRC-Channel 2 for over 20 years, where she covered many stories involving city government and other major stories.

After leaving KPRC-Channel 2 in July 2014, Benton had been serving the citizens of Harris County as a communications director, manager and aide at various Harris County government agencies, such as with the Harris County Toll Road Authority, Harris County Precinct One and Harris County Public Health, to name a few.

Benton is trained and experienced in media relations, community outreach, crisis management, intergovernmental relations and strategic media engagements. She is also a longtime member and past president of the Houston Association of Black Journalists (HABJ), as well as a past regional director for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

Although Benton is serving on an interim basis at the moment, Mayor Turner is seemingly ready to move forward with her at the helm, with confidence.

In his acceptance of Ward’s resignation, Mayor Turner expressed his gratitude to the outgoing press secretary for her years of service to the city of Houston, both in his administration and the previous administration.

“Darian Ward served the city as a key communicator for many years and has our thanks for working in public service,” said Mayor Turner. “I hope she is successful in her next endeavors.”

Although Mayor Turner did not specify why Ward was resigning, many in the community have been following the various news reports that surfaced in early January, whereby Ward had reportedly been suspended for two weeks without pay as result of not handing over all of the emails requested by a journalist in regards to her potentially using her role at City Hall to further her business ventures and using city resources to conduct personal business while on city time.

In the meantime, Benton has begun her new role and has hit the ground running.

The Forward Times will keep its readers posted on any new developments surrounding the position, and whether Benton will earn the right to have that interim title removed really soon. Stay tuned!