Asheville Daily Planet
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Wednesday, 06 March 2019 12:06

Asheville’s new City Manager Debra Campbell shared her goals and aspirations for the city — and said her job is to “collaborate” rather than to be “a mover and a shaker” — during a Feb. 1 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center. About 60 people attended.

Also making presentations were state Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Hendersonville, with a state legislative update; and UNCA’s new Chancellor Nancy J. Cable, who unveiled her vision for the university.

Prior to the speeches, CIBO chief Buzzy Cannaday, who served as moderator, recognized the elected guests — or their representatives — who were present, including Edwards, Asheville Mayor Ether Manheimer, Buncombe County commissioners Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides, Black Mountain Alderman Larry Harris, Robin Ramsey representing U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-Winston-Salem; and former Buncombe County Republican Party chairman Henry Mitchell, representing U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Highlands.

Manheimer, who frequently addresses CIBO, introduced Campbell, who, she said, was hired as Asheville’s city manager in December 2018. Previously, Campbell was an assistant city manager for Charlotte.

She has more than 30 years experience in government work, Manheimer said of Campbell. “She hails from Chattanooga, Tenn.” Prior to leaving Charlotte, Campbell recently was “ranked one of the 50 most influential women in Mecklenburg County. You can see why she was an attractive candidate to us.”

The CIBO members and guests applauded enthusiastically as Campbell smiled out at them and then said, “Thank you all for inviting me. What I’d like to say is, thank you, (city) council, thank you, community, for the warm welcome you have provided for me.”

Campbell added, "It's bee quite a challeng to leave Charlotte for Asheville, but I can tell you I haven’t regretted it one bit.

“I think this community is on the precipice for community-building. You’ve got all the ingredients to which a community aspires. You have natural beauty... We also have dedicated activists.

“So coming here was a tough decision, but I don’t regret coming here. I’ve been here about two months.

“I also hope you’ll be patient with me. I didn’t come to this community to be a ‘mover or a shaker,’ but to assimilate.

“I’m going to collaborate.

“I hope officials and leaders will see that I’m eager to work with you.

“I want to be the best partner I can be.”

She noted that UNCA Chancellor Nancy Cable’s brother, (who she did not name) “and I — in Charlotte — were very good friends.”

Further, Campbell asserted, “I want to make sure we’ve got the right staff and that we’re positioning ourselves to provide exemplary service to our community....

“Affordable housing is one of the most significant challenges we have in this community. We can’t attract talent if that talent can’t afford to live in our community... There are lots of things we’re going to have to do....

“If we’re going to be a premier city, all of our citizens — including minorities — need to be prepared to lead our future workforce.....

“Finally, I see lots of need for capital infrastructure…. In order to do that, we’re going to need revenue. We can’t afford to have the enormous needs paid for on the dime of the property tax.”

During a question-and-answer session that followed, an unidentified man asked, “When you addressed the development services advisory board … could you elaborate on that?”

“Let’s say predictability means early on in the development process, (if) we can” review details, it could accellerate the process, Campbell answered. “We’re hoping we can develop more detailed plans to define expectations. 

“We talked about affordable housing — and affordable housing is key. We hope we can encourage City Council (to be) much upstream in the process. Not having things decided so far back in the process” is a problem, Campbell said.

— By JOHN NORTH, Daily Planet



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