Who am I?
While I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, the North Carolina Mountains played a significant role in my life thanks to my mother, whose Jackson County roots date back more than 150 years.
I am a pragmatic, progressive thinking, hardworking, proven leader. I believe experience has been one of my greatest instructors, helping me listen to different views, analyze problems, organize and work with multiple groups, bridge differences to find common ground, and move toward solutions. I have a deeply rooted sense of justice and fairness and understand that every decision touches someone, making it critical to involve people in decisions that will impact their lives.
My first jobs, after graduating from Davidson College, were for Amnesty International USA, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and the Georgia Justice Project. These roles allowed me to channel my passion for people and justice into concrete action. For example, I worked against the death penalty nationally and also in a particular case in Georgia. My realization that I wanted to effect change at a larger level led me to law school at Emory University, where I became an ardent advocate for the environment.
At Kilpatrick Stockton, a well-respected Atlanta law firm, I represented corporations in environmental matters. In academia, I ran the environmental law clinic at Emory Law School, both teaching and representing nonprofits and community groups. I was also vice president and general counsel at the Georgia Conservancy, a statewide environmental advocacy group. I channeled my continued interest in justice issues through 11 years of service on the Georgia Justice Project board, where I helped create a job training program for people who were released from prison and moved GJP to engage in policy advocacy.
I moved to Asheville in 2008 to become executive director of the Western North Carolina Alliance (now MountainTrue). Over the last several years, when many businesses went under, I more than quadrupled our size, creating new jobs, increasing revenues, and improving our effectiveness. Part of that success stemmed from understanding that nonprofits should be managed like a business, focused on the efficient, effective delivery of products and services. Most recently, I envisioned and then led a successful merger among three nonprofit corporations.
In addition to leading the helm at MountainTrue, I have served on the City’s Transit Commission (now Committee), chairing it since 2012, and I serve on the City’s Multi-Modal Transportation Commission. I was appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to the Mountain Resources Commission, where I served for two years until the Commission was dissolved. I have also served on and chaired the board of the North Carolina Conservation Network, and I currently serve on the board of the WNC Chapter of the ACLU, where I am the secretary-treasurer. I serve on the executive committee of the HUB Alliance and on the Advisory Committee for WNC Nonprofit Pathways. I am a 2014 graduate of Leadership Asheville and helped organize Diversity Day for the 2015 LA class.
As an attorney, I understand the language of government and have written laws, regulations, ordinances, and resolutions – skills that help me serve the community now and would help me as a City Council member. Asheville isn’t just the place where I live and work. It is my home. Given my experiences over the past 25 years, I feel both responsible for helping guide our growth into the future and uniquely positioned to succeed in that role.
I am married to Jim Grode and live in West Asheville. Jim is also attorney, and he owns a management consulting business for small businesses and nonprofits. He chairs the City’s Multi-Modal Transportation Commission, has served on the Greenways Commission/Committee for six years, and is on the boards of ASAP and Asheville on Bikes. In my free time, you can find me at a Saturday morning farmer’s market, hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking an urban bicycle ride around Asheville, paddling down the French Broad River, or enjoying one of our many fine local restaurants and breweries.