PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE

Asheville’s former mayor is now focusing her attention on the issue of affordable housing

By CHRISTY MARTIN ’71 MA ’78

Former two-term Asheville mayor Terry Bellamy MPA ’14 brings many of her priorities as a community leader, wife and mother to her position at the Asheville Housing Authority. The local government agency assists more than 6,500 low-income people with their housing needs. Bellamy, who began her job April 27, is serving as the agency’s first neighborhood outreach coordinator and communications specialist.

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“Ever since I became involved in public life, I’ve continued to work on the issue of affordable housing. We all need a roof over our heads, a decent place to live, a good job and opportunities for education. Families need that. Children need that,” said Bellamy, who as a child lived in public housing until her mother was able to buy a house.

When her appointment was announced in April in the Asheville Citizen-Times, she said that one of her proudest accomplishments as mayor was helping to create some 3,000 affordable housing units.

Bellamy, who returned to college for her master’s degree in public affairs and is now working on a doctorate in educational leadership at WCU, says that opening doors to education is one of her goals in her new job. She wants to develop policies that will lead to more educational opportunities for public housing residents, especially those who have intellectual disabilities.

Bellamy was 33 years old when she was elected to her first term in 2005, becoming North Carolina’s youngest mayor and Asheville’s first African-American mayor. Voters re-elected her for another term in 2009. During eight years of municipal leadership, she focused on reducing homelessness, improving the city’s water system, creating new job training programs, upgrading community centers and developing Asheville’s economy by attracting new and expanded businesses, including New Belgium Brewing Company.

Bellamy was still serving as mayor when she went back to school for her master’s degree at WCU. At the time, she also was executive director of ARC of Buncombe County, a service organization that assists people with intellectual disabilities. All of her classes, except for three online courses, were held at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site.

“One reason for going back to school was that I had been working for many years on the side that approves public policy, and I thought it would be great to learn more about where it all begins, how to create policy and how to do that in a way that would be sustainable,” she said.

Although juggling her active life of community work, career and family responsibilities was challenging, Bellamy finished the program in two years. She made top grades and was inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society for social sciences students.

Bellamy this spring was among 10 incoming members of WCU’s recently launched Board of Visitors, which is designed to serve as an advisory body to the university’s chancellor. Members of the Board of Visitors serve as advocates and ambassadors for WCU; promote and advance the mission, vision and strategic plan of the university; make WCU a philanthropic priority; and provide the chancellor and the Board of Trustees with advice and counsel on issues that are critical to the institution’s strategic interests.