Super Mario 3 – Mario Benavente Wins City Council Seat for District 3 Fayetteville NCby Tracey Morrison, GDN Contributing Writer August 26, 2022
“I feel just as grateful as I did today. On the evening of July 26th, the morning of August 5th, and about 6 hours ago – when told for the 3rd time that six votes held strong. I am honored to serve my neighbors in District 3 and all across my hometown as your next city councilman.”
Those words were echoed by the newly elected City Council Mario Benavente as he delivered his inauguration speech on August 11, 2022. Super Mario received the crown of City Council for District 3 after successfully passing three levels of the local election process. Mario’s consistency during his campaign led to this point. Mario’s campaign team knocked on doors, made calls, and spoke to District 3 residents. Mario even made his campaign entertaining, marketing his sign on social media at the Dreamville concert.
Mario is in full force like a Super Mario Brothers power-up, advocating for issues that matter to him. In 2018, he initiated the Fayetteville Millennial Commission to give young Fayetteville residents a voice in civic engagement. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Mario was seen in the community protesting police brutality. It was essential to him that the city come together to demonstrate their support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. He and other activists occupied the Fayetteville market house for five days for 24 hours. The outpouring of support for that action taught him that activism matters. “Activism will get things done when the people in power refuse to do their job,” shared Mario.
Mario’s interest in politics and policy gradually came in phases. Mario was 11 years old when 9/11 occurred. He was too young to understand what was happening then, but that tragic incident stood out as the country came together to fight terrorism in response to the attacks. Mario was a member of EE Smith’s debate team. The debate team would visit schools every weekend, arguing about policies. Mario attended the U.N.C. at Chapel Hill, majoring in Peace, War, and Defense and Communication. He was a member of the school’s mock trial team. A pivotal moment of activism occurred for him with the removal of the long-standing confederate statue on the school’s campus. Mario camped out with classmates and talked to the board of trustees and governors. His goal was to bring awareness to how students felt about a monument at the university’s entrance glorifying the confederacy and enslavement of African Americans. His stance during that moment taught him the power of collective action.
Mario had a moment of complacency in college. He discussed the Muslim ban during the Trump Administration, which prohibits citizens of 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Mario was amazed by the action of the lawyers visiting airports to help those victimized by the Muslim ban executive order. He thought it could have been him making a difference if he had finished school on time. Within eight years, Mario completed his matriculation. A year later, he graduated from N.C. Central University’s law program.
Mario’s reputation in District 3 derives from his community work. Over the past 4-5 years, Mario did various civic engagement work to bring issues of police reform. He attended city council meetings and public forums, met with city officials, lobbied, protested, and pushed for a civilian review board. Mario assured the voters he’s been doing the work without the title of a city council. Mario shared his confidence going into the community to say this is what he’s running on and stands for without question. He ensured constituents knew that a civilian review board was on his campaign handouts.
Super Mario is a man among men that’s on a mission to serve his hometown. Mario hopes the diversity on the Fayetteville city council will bring a gleam of hope, especially for the younger generation, that they also matter. Mario’s favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King is, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.” Mario was confronted with that decision a long time ago on whom he wanted to be and what he wanted to do. Mario’s dedication throughout his life proves he’s a solutionist. Servitude is Mario’s motivational drive to get problems solved in the political field.