Debra D. Campbell, the Assistant City Manager of Charlotte since 2014, has been named Asheville’s next City Manager. Asheville City Council voted unanimously to name Campbell to the job at its Oct. 17, 2018 meeting.
Campbell will become Asheville’s first African American in the role, coincidentally at the same time that Quentin Miller becomes Buncombe County’s first black sheriff. Prior to joining the Charlotte City Manager’s office Campbell served as the city’s Planning Director from 2004 to 2014, a time of booming redevelopment for the Queen City.
“Debra Campbell has tackled many of the challenges Asheville now faces,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer. “Her depth and breadth of experience makes her extremely qualified to take the helm of our—and now her—City.”
Campbell’s list of accomplishments and strategic initiatives in Charlotte includes supporting the development of the Housing Charlotte Framework, a 10-year strategy for community collaboration to increase the supply of affordable housing. She initiated expansion of a public engagement effort in which city employees of all levels were asked to take 10 minutes to engage a person of a different race in a face-to-face conversation about city issues and concerns.
Campbell also led an interdepartmental group to identify and address issues related to safety, trust and accountability, well-paying jobs and affordable housing. And she had a hand in coordination with federal and state officials on the funding and development of a rapid transit system, resulting in the construction of 19.3 miles of light rail and millions of square feet of transit-oriented development currently being built across Charlotte.
“I am truly blessed, honored and excited to have been selected amongst an extremely qualified pool of applicants to be the next City Manager of Asheville,” Campbell said. “I have visited this city on numerous occasions and marveled not only at its natural beauty but also at the spirit of community activism in Asheville.”
“As your next City Manager, I promise to work tirelessly and collaboratively with elected officials, staff, and every sector of this community to build on the positive momentum underway in this great city, and to address issues related to public safety and trust, social and economic disparity, and environmental stewardship,” she added.
Campbell has a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning from Middle Tennessee State University, where she also earned her master’s in Public Administration. She is a member of the American Planning Association, the Urban Land Institute and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. In 2007, she was named Public Official of the Year by Governing magazine.
Campbell will begin her new job on December 3. She will succeed former City Manager Gary Jackson, who was fired by City Council in March in response to a series of poor management decisions in the aftermath of Asheville police officer Chris Hickman’s beating of a pedestrian in August, 2017, as well as other APD issues. On Nov. 7 of this year, APD Chief Tammy Hooper submitted her resignation, effective Jan. 2, 2019, so one of Campbell’s first tasks will be to bring a new chief on board while overseeing changes in police procedure mandated by City Council. The Chief of Police reports not to City Council, but to the City Manager.