The City of Asheville is pleased to announce that the Department of Equity and Inclusion is once again fully staffed.
Led by veteran public servant Brenda Mills, the new team is already working in the community and internally with staff to make equity and inclusion a part of everything the City of Asheville does.
Brenda Mills, Director of Equity and Inclusion
Brenda Mills has been an invaluable resource for the City of Asheville for 16 years, with extensive experience in local government. As Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Mills oversees the City’s Reparations initiative. She sees this as an integral part of her efforts to bring equity and inclusion to the community. Her team, along with the City, will work with the Community Reparations Commission to explore what reparations could look like in Asheville. Their information gathering and recommendations will be made to the City Council for implementation.
Darian D. Blue, Outreach Coordinator
Darian Blue joins the City with a wealth of experience in community engagement. Most recently, he created R.I.S.E. Coaching and Leadership in South Carolina. Through community outreach the national organization aligned minority businesses with financial and community support to ensure they thrive. He has been featured in USA Today for his efforts to eliminate poverty and was awarded the Calder B. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award in diversity and inclusion. Blue was even named one of the “50 Most Influential for 2017” by Greenville Business Magazine in South Carolina.
Darian Blue developed his understanding of the importance of community outreach when he studied non-profit leadership; including programs at the Riley Institute at Furman, Duke University and Francis Marion University. He welcomes the challenges and opportunities of working within a community which values the ideas of creating space, giving voice and providing equity for all people.
Marcus Kirkman, Equity and Inclusion Training Consultant
Marcus Kirkman is a big man with a big vision. Having served his country honorably for 22 years in the United States Navy as an Operations Specialist, Kirkman brought his talents for analysis and problem solving closer to home. As a certified instructor in disciplines as varied as terrorism to mindfulness, Kirkman is a proven leader, providing professional coaching, facilitation, and consulting services to individuals and organizations. In fact, Mecklenburg County Detention Center adopted his “Manhood” Facilitation curriculum to decrease recidivism from 33% to 15% from 2019-2020.
As the City’s Equity and Inclusion Trainer, Marcus will be providing training for our City Council, City staff, including Fire and Police Departments, Boards and Commissions, and our Asheville Community. He is honored to be part of the City of Asheville’s team focusing on moving Equity and Inclusion from a “concept” to a living presence.
Alayna Schmidt, Research & Data Analyst Equity & Inclusion Consultant
Alayna Schmidt joins the City of Asheville’s Office with an extensive background in policy research and practice. For the past six years, Schmidt has committed to challenging and transforming interlocking systems of oppression through data analysis, research, writing, youth programming, and staff training. The Environmental Educators of North Carolina awarded her Outstanding Practitioner in 2020 for her dedication to equity and inclusion in environmental education programming. The W.N.C. Nature Center’s Young Naturalist program in 2021, under Schmidt’s leadership, received the Significant Achievement in Education Award.
Schmidt will serve as the City staff liaison to the Human Relations Commission of Asheville. She will also be the main point of contact for community constituents needing to report possible discrimination. through the City’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance. She brings a $10,000 grant from the Children & Nature Network to support equitable access to nature through youth development programming.