NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 25, 2014

From salesman to police officer

Former Councilor Benson changes career after moving to New Orleans

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — For 10 years, former Amesbury resident Roger Benson served the city’s citizens as a member of the municipal and then later the City Council, two years as its president.

But starting next month, Benson, who now lives just outside New Orleans, will be protecting and serving the citizens of that large city as a member of its police force.

While Benson, a marketer of wholesale auto parts for the better part of 15 years, admitted the change in careers might seem a leap for a 36-year-old, it rings true to what is a big part of his life.

“Community service has always been important to me,” Benson said.

The Amesbury High School graduate lived in Amesbury for 20 years before permanently moving down to the New Orleans area about 18 months ago. And when the fire to sell auto parts burnt itself out, he began looking for his next career.

A longtime supporter and admirer of police officers, Benson came to the conclusion that he too could be one. With that in mind, he began an extensive training program that saw him run several long-distance road races. In the process, he quit smoking and dropped 30 pounds.

Recently hired as a police recruit by the New Orleans Police Department, Benson will enter a police academy in June and, if all goes well, will be sworn in upon graduation six months later.

During his years on the City Council, Benson was known for his support of former Mayors David Hildt and Thatcher Kezer. In 2009, while council president, he and other councilors were criticized for holding campaign signs for Kezer outside the Route 110 Friendly’s.

He was also known for his love of Cadillacs, his vanity license plate that spells his last name, and grabbing a cigarette during council recesses.

Barely 21 when he first joined the council in 2000 representing District 2, he became a councilor-at-large six years later.

He moved to Massachusetts from Louisiana at age 5, so in a sense his return to the Bayou State is a homecoming of sorts.

With its reputation as a violent and rebuilding city firmly entrenched across the country, New Orleans presents a significant challenge for Benson, whose only previous experience with police was when he served as a practice target for Amesbury police officers when they first acquired tazers.

While admitting the challenges ahead, Benson said he was excited for the opportunity and ready to join the ranks of New Orleans’ law enforcement family.

“I’d like to be part of what fixes it,” Benson said, regarding New Orleans’ violent reputation.