"Because of my experience, I know the kinds of questions to ask," said Benton.
"I thought we had eight excellent candidates," said School Board President Keith Sutton. "I would have been satisfied with any of them."
Benton's selection caps off an intensive process involving eight applicants. Seven of them were Democrats. Their expertise ranged from education and software development to the military.
One by one, the board grilled each candidate on various issues like student achievement and future assignment goals.
Benton replaces Republican Chris Malone, who resigned after winning a State House seat last November.
Benton is now responsible for representing students and parents in District One, which covers the Wake Forest-Rolesville area and parts of North Raleigh.
Benton said he almost shied away from applying, but his daughters convinced him otherwise.
"My two daughters said 'Dad, how can you not do this? You've always told us if you've got a chance to make a difference, you've got to step up and see if you can make a difference,'" said Benton.
Benton will be officially sworn in on Feb. 19. He will serve out the rest of Malone's term, which expires this November.
In March, the board will replace former board member Debra Goldman, who resigned last Friday after moving out of the area.