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Equity & Human Rights Office

When the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners declared racism a public health and safety crisis in August of 2020, it signaled the confluence of a legislative commitment to dismantling systemic racism within Buncombe County governmental operations with meaningful community action. The 2025 Buncombe County Strategic Plan places equity as both a foundational focus area and a value, and so in order to build meaningful momentum, an Equity & Inclusion workgroup was formed. Despite the pandemic, the team continued to meet to build a plan to guide racial equity in Buncombe County moving forward.

Buncombe County staff applied to volunteer for three-year terms to help not only build that path, but also create the measures that help us stay the course to meet the goals outlined in this plan.

The Equity & Inclusion Workgroup is focused on building a sustainable culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in our community. While inequities and lack of inclusion exist across all areas - race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, and more, we are beginning with racial equity because of pronounced disparities in this area. Because we know that there are the largest disparities by race across all sectors, focusing on racial equity helps us to get our systems and structures in place in order.

An ordinance that bolsters Buncombe County’s commitment toward its 2025 Strategic Plan goal of increasing equity was approved by Commissioners during their April 20, 2021 meeting. The nondiscrimination ordinance protects access to private employment and public accommodations. The ordinance defines discrimination as any difference in treatment based on race, natural hair or hairstyles, ethnicity, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or ancestry, marital or familial status, pregnancy, veteran status, religious belief or non-belief, age, or disability. Read the resolution in its entirety.

Equity & Inclusion Workgroup Members

  • DK Wesley, Executive Sponsor
  • Sharon Burke, Executive Consultant
  • Rachael Nygaard, Team Lead
  • Zo Mpofu, Team Lead
  • Hector Salgado, Team Lead
  • Alex McKnight
  • Alexandra Duncan
  • Becky Kessel
  • Carolina Siliceo Perez
  • Cattleya Gaines
  • Chris Bubenik
  • Haylee Madfis
  • Jacqueline Brannon
  • Kristin Wilson
  • Lee Crayton
  • Leonard Jones
  • Merry Michalsen
  • Rasheeda McDaniels
  • Ron Venturella
  • Rusty Mau
  • Tiffany Iheanacho


News & Information

Locate & Contact

Equity & Human Rights Office


Rachel Edens
Chief Equity & Human
Rights Officer
P: (828) 250-6523

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Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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