Press release from City of Asheville:
After a national search, Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell found the talent and the passion for public service she sought to fill two important director positions within the ranks of the City staff. No need to orient someone new to the community or to explain the challenges that lie ahead — they already know it.
After being appointed as Interim Equity and Inclusion Director in July, Brenda Mills will now become the official director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Meanwhile, former Economic Development Program Director Nikki Reid, who served as Interim Community and Economic Development Director after Sam Powers retired in February, will now assume that director position.
“I am excited to announce the promotions of Nikki Reid and Brenda Mills,” said Campbell. “Both of these employees are experienced public servants with a history of success at the City of Asheville. They are not only ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, they are already down in the trenches doing the work.”
Equity and Inclusion Director Brenda Mills
Brenda Mills has been an invaluable resource for the City of Asheville for 16 years, with experience in local government for more than 31 years. Prior to her Interim Equity and Inclusion Director assignment, Mills served as Neighborhood & Community Engagement Manager for the City’s Communication and Public Engagement Department since 2017. In this role, she worked to build community capacity for effective engagement in local government. She cultivated communication networks with neighborhood associations and community groups and served as their liaison with the City.
Before that, she served as Economic Development Specialist for the Community & Economic Development Department, where she led the City’s Minority Business Program. In that role, she focused on outreach, education and support in public contracting to small-, minority- and women-owned businesses, working directly with City departments on minority business plan compliance and outreach. In 2019, she led the completion of the City’s Disparity Study, which provided for the next steps of the City’s newly named Business Inclusion Program.
Now as Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Mills is not only charged with hiring a new staff but also overseeing the City’s Reparations initiative, a major undertaking. Mills and the Office of Equity and Inclusion will work with a to-be-named Community Reparations Commission to explore what reparations could look like in Asheville and ultimately make recommendations to the City Council for implementation. Project management services provided by TEQuity will assist in the 24-month project. Find out more about the Reparations initiative at this link.
“I’m truly committed, excited and ready to take on this new role,” Mills said. “I know firsthand the City and our staff are committed to equity and we’re ready to do the work. I am honored to be a part of the next leg of our equity journey.”
Mills has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Public Affairs degree from Western Carolina University. She has served in many volunteer capacities on local boards including on the United Way of Asheville-Buncombe County (2002-2014), Helpmate Board of Directors (2010-2015), Manna Food Bank Board of Directors (2005-2007), the YWCA Board of Director (2004-2007) and The N.C. Arboretum Society (2018-2021). She has been a longtime volunteer for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.
Community and Economic Development Director Nikki Reid
During her more than 13 years with the City, Nikki Reid has led several important projects, including the acquisition of land for the new fire station on Broadway; the lease and sale of an underdeveloped City-owned property to White Labs Inc. (a yeast-manufacturing company) for their East Coast Headquarters; and the creation of an implementation policy to create affordable housing on City-owned land. During her time as City Real Estate Program Director, she also notably led the acquisition of right-of-way and greenways needed to transform the River Arts District through the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project ( RADTIP) infrastructure investments.
Most recently, Reid has been instrumental in working with the Community Development Division to lead the City’s efforts to purchase an emergency non-congregate 100+ bed shelter as a key component of the City’s response to the increase in homelessness caused by COVID-19.
Reid also guided staff through an equity-based process for the lease of City-owned property at 8 River Arts Place, resulting in the attraction of a new tenant known as Black Wall Street AVL, which will serve as a hub for more than 50 local businesses of color.
“I am deeply grateful for the opportunities that I have had in my career with the City of Asheville,” said Reid. “We have an amazing staff team in the Community and Economic Development Department and as Director, I look forward to collaborating with this team in service to our community.”
A Western North Carolina native, Reid holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Municipal & County Administration Certificate from the UNC School of Government. She is a licensed Real Estate Broker, a member of the Urban Land Institute, the North Carolina Economic Development Association, Southern Economic Development Council and International Economic Development Council. She’s a past president of the Madison County Arts Council and served on the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County’s 2017 Community Investment Committee.