What is your educational background? I have a BA degree in Political Science and Education from Duke University; a MA degree in History from UNC-Greensboro, and a J.D. from UNC Law School.
What is your professional background? I have been a high school teacher, a professor at Alamance Community College and at UNC and Duke Law Schools. For 10 years, my wife and I owned a nightclub in downtown Chapel Hill and we provided employees with a living wage and free health insurance. We made the bar a safe and inclusive space, and I am humbled whenever one of the old regulars tells me that the bar created a welcoming community for them at an important time in their lives. That experience is a reminder of the critical role that small businesses play in our community and on our broader quality of life. I have spent time sharing that background with and helping mentor other local business owners. I also worked at Self-Help, assisting and advising predominantly minority small business owners across the state.
I have been a civil rights lawyer in North Carolina for over 25 years. My work included employment discrimination, fair housing, environmental justice, and equal access to public services. I’ve spent much of the past decade focused on education-related advocacy across the state. This work has included anti-segregation efforts, litigation on ending discriminatory discipline, school policing, anti-privatization efforts, and redistricting. I am proud to be one of the lawyers in the long-running Leandro case that seeks to ensure sufficient funding for all schools statewide to be able to provide a constitutionally adequate education, and to have represented UNC students in undoing the meritless Silent Sam settlement.
Have you ever held political office? If so, please describe your experience. I served on the Carrboro Board of Alderman from 199-2003, was elected to the BoCC in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. I served as BoCC Vice Chair in 2016 and Chair from 2017-2018.
Why are you choosing to run for Orange County Commissioner/Board of Education at this point in time? I am running to build on and expand the efforts we’ve made over the past 7 years on the most critical issues facing the community. I will continue to prioritize affordable housing, criminal justice reform, educational equity, and economic development, all with the focus on making our community more inclusive and nurturing.
What are some of the challenges that you see facing Orange County in the coming years that you’ll have to take on if elected? Biggest challenges facing the community that I am committed to engaging on are
1) addressing ongoing issues of racial & social justice: expanding resources, programs, and policies to increase access to affordable housing and prevent displacement of low wealth residents; development of affordable housing on the Greene Tract; and revising criminal justice policies to increase diversion programs and ending the criminalization of poverty.
2) meeting critical education needs: equitable funding for all students in the county; continue efforts to make school budgeting process more collaborative & transparent and to prioritize most urgent capital and facility needs; advocate for greater education support and funding from state; and implement universal pre-k for underserved students.
3) economic opportunity and income disparities: expand economic development efforts to continue to focus on new job creation, supporting local businesses, and diversifying the tax base; expand accessibility and programming at Durham Tech; revise land use planning to increase affordable housing opportunities, develop targeted housing programs to make it easier for public employees to live in the towns where they work, and incentivize affordable housing development along transit corridors.
Please describe briefly your vision for Orange County: My vision for Orange County is of a community that continues to value inclusion, equity, and diversity; that creates policies and practices that address the needs of all residents and the continuing challenges related to racial and economic disparities; and that balances prioritizing our most urgent needs and the responsible use of our resources.
Why should voters vote for you in the March 3 Spring Primary? With a 25+ year history as a civil rights attorney and community activist—all of it grounded in the pursuit of social and racial justice—I have brought a unique perspective, clarity of vision, and leadership to the board. As Chair, I led the board to work more effectively and transparently, and to make its discussions more accessible to members of the public. I will also continue to work to engage residents that have often been left out of the political process. My background and experience make the board work better, and work for all residents.