By Matt Cosper
October 12, 2017
Dimple Ajmera means business. She’s made a name for herself in local politics in a relatively short time, and wants to do more. After serving on the city council in District 5 for a little under two years, 31-year-old Ajmera is running for a seat as a council member at-large, a position that would broaden the scope of what she might potentially accomplish in city government.
Ajmera’s family immigrated to America from India when she was a teenager and, after attending high school in Durham, she found herself California bound. She earned an Associate’s Degree at Chaffee College before moving on to the University of Southern California, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. She later became a CPA and worked as a tax consultant for Deloitte and Touche. This was the first in a series of high impact positions in the financial sector, including work with Yardi Systems and most recently as change manager for TIAA financial. The loss of her father several years ago prompted a period of soul searching in Ajmera. She started to question what she was doing with her life; what her legacy would be. Her father’s history of service stuck with her and she wanted to get involved in the larger life of her community. Ajmera began to develop a higher profile in public service, working closely with the Charlotte Housing Authority advocating for more affordable housing.
In the 5th District Ajmera has been most visible for her work redeveloping the old Eastland Mall site. Once a bustling retail hub, the mall fell into disuse and decay at the beginning of the 2000s. In recent years it has been reimagined as a mixed-use site.But does redevelopment inevitably mean gentrification? The story of Eastland Mall is a good case study for Charlotte’s attitudes toward development and urban renewal. Ajmera has been vocal in public about this aspect of the Eastland site, prioritizing slow and smart development precisely to avoid displacement. This, along with economic mobility, public safety and traffic congestion are central to Ajmera’s goals for the city. We spoke with her recently, about her goals for the city and about the importance of hard conversations.
CLTure: What is your number one priority in your work with city government?
Dimple Ajmera: Economic Opportunity. That’s my number one platform.
CLTure: Are there other initiatives you’d like to see move forward? Projects that you consider essential?
DA: Oh, yes! Affordable housing, economic opportunity, safe neighborhoods and efficient public infrastructure.
CLTure: What do you see as the number one challenge facing city government? What are the roadblocks to getting some of these things done?
DA: With economic opportunities, there are two Charlottes. One is the “haves,” and the other is the “have-nots.” And there are systemic issues that have taken place over many years. Obviously it’s not going to be solved in a year or two. Addressing some of these systemic issues has to be intentional and I think that the city council working together to address these systemic issues can truly address this issue of upward mobility.
MC: Having tough conversations can be a challenging thing to do in Charlotte. You got some heat recently for calling out President Trump’s statements about Charlottesville. Do you think there is a way to have these tough conversations in a polite Southern city like Charlotte?
DA: So, let’s be honest. We cannot heal as a city until we have candid conversations with our neighbors. Those candid conversations need to be very intentional. We cannot heal as a city if one group in our community continues to feel oppressed. When I made a statement about President Trump…he’s a divisive and negative figurehead, and for us to really heal we have to stay united and work well with others.
MC: You said earlier that positive change in Charlotte won’t happen overnight. So, generally, what would you like Charlotte to look like 15 years from now, in your ideal scenario?
DA: I would say equitable, inclusive and a safe place to live and raise a family. And I can see that happening. If we are being intentional about certain policies I can see that happening here.