2018 in review: Shakeups in Asheville city staff

Former Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson
SORRY MR. JACKSON: Former Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson, who announced his retirement in February to a standing ovation from City Council, was unanimously fired by the same body a month later. Photo courtesy of the city of Asheville

Change proved the only constant among staff members in Asheville city government during 2018. Firings, resignations, reassignments and new hires left the city’s bureaucracy radically changed from its makeup at the start of the year.

  1. Hiring of Debra Campbell: Asheville’s first new city manager in well over a decade — and its first-ever African-American in the role — didn’t take the reins until Dec. 3. But she brings a new perspective on key challenges such as transit and smart growth gained during her time as assistant city manager of Charlotte.
  2. Firing of Gary Jackson: Campbell’s arrival was made possible by the departure of Jackson, whose service came to an abrupt end on March 20. Council has still offered no official explanation for Jackson’s removal beyond that it was “in the city and his best interests”; an Xpress investigation in August explored his complex legacy.
  3. Resignation of Tammy Hooper: While community calls for the Asheville Police Department chief’s removal began after the leak of a police beating video in late February, Hooper didn’t offer her resignation until Nov. 7. City officials say Hooper had previously attempted to resign before the leak was made public but agreed to stay with the city after Jackson’s firing until a new manager was hired.
  4. Legal department exodus: Former City Attorney Robin Currin left Asheville’s top legal job on Sept. 27 to take the same job in Raleigh, but she wasn’t alone in jumping ship. Both former Deputy City Attorney Kelly Langteau-Ball and former Assistant City Attorney Catherine Hofmann quit the department; neither responded to Xpress requests for comment on their departure.
  5. Equity and Inclusion expansion: The city’s Equity and Inclusion Manager, Kimberlee Archie, got more muscle behind her recently formed department thanks to an approximately $250,000 budget allocation. Yakisha Smith was hired as the inclusive engagement and leadership manager, with two more employees to come by the end of the fiscal year in June 2019.
  6. Departure of Elias Mathes: Shortly after spearheading efforts to pass Asheville’s Transit Master Plan, the city’s transit planning manager left in October to join a Florida-based consulting firm. City staff are now scrambling to fund implementation of the plan, which is scheduled to begin in July next year.
  7. Demotion of Jade Dundas: The former interim assistant city manager, who said he was aware of the Johnnie Jermaine Rush beating in August 2017 but did not tell Jackson, was reassigned to the post of capital projects director in March. At the time, Dundas told WLOS that informing Jackson “was not part of protocol.”
  8. Hiring of Michael Blair: The city’s community development director, who started work on Oct. 29, fills a critical role as Council grapples with the problem of affordable housing. Blair brings experience on housing issues from his work on the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.
  9. Public records support: In response to an increasing number of public records requests — disproportionately more than elsewhere in the state, according to city Budget Manager Tony McDowell — Asheville hired Terry White to serve as a full-time public records officer.
  10. New city clerk certification: In a sign that the city recognizes longtime City Clerk Maggie Burleson won’t remain on the job forever, Deputy City Clerk Sarah Terwilliger earned her Certified Municipal Clerk designation, as recognized by a Council proclamation on Sept. 25.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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One thought on “2018 in review: Shakeups in Asheville city staff

  1. Jane

    Former Deputy City Attorney Kelly Langteau-Ball– you mean femme fatale Kelly Whitlock? ?

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