Meet Karen

Chapel Hill Town Council

I am deeply rooted in the community I serve.

I grew up in Chapel Hill and have spent most of my adult life here.

After attending public school in Chapel Hill, I earned my undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

You could say I’m a Tar Heel, through and through.

Some of my favorite Chapel Hill memories:

  • participating in cross country and track at Phillips Middle School, Chapel Hill High School, and in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Pacers Club.
  • riding the G bus downtown, hanging out with friends at the Pump House and Mr. Gatti’s Pizza.
  • serving early morning breakfast at the IFC Community Kitchen twice a month before heading to high school.
  • being on Franklin Street when the UNC basketball team won the national championship in 1982.
My childhood home on Hickory Drive, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

My family taught me the importance of an equitable community and the role that government plays in creating it. My parents were involved in local government, and I even helped stuff campaign envelopes for Howard Lee (the first African-American to serve as Mayor of Chapel Hill) in his bid for lieutenant governor.

Commemorative art installation for the “Chapel Hill Nine” who staged sit-in demonstrations protesting segregationist business practices.

I later gained an even deeper appreciation of the Chapel Hill civil rights pioneers who changed the face of public life, education, and civic engagement, not just for our town, but for the entire nation.

I am grateful for all those who came before me in this community and beyond, working to shatter the discriminatory barriers to public service.

As Chapel Hill became the hub for both my personal and professional lives, I took part in advocacy efforts including LGBTQ+ rights, poverty, racial equity, and public education.

My advocacy work, which led to my interest in public service, has made my appreciation of this community – and my connection to it – stronger than ever.

Voter registration drive.
Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.
Helping put out flags for Pride Month.

My experience gives me insight into local issues and the skills for developing innovative solutions.

Early in my career, I learned the difference between charity and social justice. I often reflect on my “light bulb moment”, when I decided that, rather than filling the gaps left by injustice, I would focus on addressing their root causes.

Overall, my work has served the public interest – from my experience at the Wake County Literacy Council, to local initiatives in Chapel Hill’s public housing communities, and my current efforts to improve health care in developing countries at the Chapel Hill-based nonprofit Intrahealth International, where I serve as the Director of Business Development.

Through these experiences, I learned how to listen to the community and forge partnerships with local government and private-sector entities to work cooperatively and move forward together.

The downtown post office is home to “Peace and Justice Plaza”, which honors local activists.

I also became adept at leveraging resources, identifying funding sources, and building collaborations on a local, state, and federal level. I now apply my expertise to the issues faced by this community as a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, along with contributing to other local and regional municipal planning groups.

My time on Council has included serving on the following boards and committees:

  • Community Design Commission
  • Complete Count Census Committee  
  • Council Committee on Economic Sustainability
  • Family Success Alliance Advisory Board
  • Housing Advisory Board 
  • Human Services Advisory Board
  • Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board – liaison to Chapel Hill appointees
  • Orange County Local Government Affordable Housing Collaborative
  • Planning Commission
  • Reimagining Community Safety Task Force
  • Stormwater Management Utility Advisory Board

Ensuring a bright future for our community is even more important to me now that Chapel Hill is my children’s hometown, too.

My wife Alyson Grine and I have two children, Hazel and Wyatt, ages 15 and 12.

Like me, our kids were born here and they attend public school in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

Alyson Grine is a North Carolina Superior Court Judge for Judicial District 15B, serving Orange and Chatham Counties.

Alyson, Wyatt, Karen, and Hazel on a walk with the dog Jolene.

We are grateful that our family life is centered in Chapel Hill, with its small-town charm and natural beauty.

Most of the time you will find us somewhere in Chapel Hill, cheering on the Tar Heels, hiking on local trails, involved in school and extracurricular activities, attending services at the Community Church of Chapel Hill, or happily at home, fostering dogs in need of rescue.

We want our children to grow up in a community that values the voice of every resident – and whose government is responsive, caring, and just.