On January 16, Charlotte City Council made a unanimous decision to appoint 30-year-old Dimple Ajmera to serve out the rest of John Autry’s term. Autry was elected to North Carolina’s House of Representatives last November. Six people including Ajmera applied for the job.
Ajmera made it clear to city council that she has no plans to run for office. That was what the city council wanted to hear, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Still, since being sworn in to serve the 5th District which covers East Charlotte, Ajmera says she keeps getting asked: Is this 11-month term a chance for her to dip her toes in the political waters to see if she’d like to dive in for a swim?
“I’ll say this: I’ve never thought about being in elected office, honestly speaking. This is all new to me and I just want to focus on the issues I would like to tackle because the time is going to fly by.”
Those issues are creating more economic opportunities for people in Charlotte, investing in the city's infrastructure, and working to make neighborhoods safer.
Ajmera’s been in Charlotte for over six years. Before that, she lived in Southern California where she was an account manager for a software company. She relocated to North Carolina when she was recruited by financial services company TIAA where she is currently a senior project manager. She’s a certified CPA and served on the Charlotte Housing Authority Board for more than two years. (She resigned once she was sworn in as a city council member.)
During her time on the Charlotte Housing Authority Board she became an advocate for affordable housing in the city.
Ajmera represents two firsts for council. For one, she’s the first Asian-American council member. Her family came to America by way of India when she was sixteen. She went to high school in Durham and earned her degree at the University of Southern California.
When I spoke to Ajmera, she made multiple references to the idea of everyone deserving the chance at the “American dream,” something she said she had a shot at because of her parents. She credits her late father as the inspiration for seeking the appointment to council. When he passed away unexpectedly four years ago, it made her think about what was important in life. Public service was one of those things.
“I was doing some soul-searching and it shook me to the core that Charlotte was facing issues and I wasn’t being part of the solution,” Ajmera says.
And so she got involved with politics. Ajmera is a board member of Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County and the Asian American Caucus.
The other first: Ajmera is the council's first Millennial member. (However, she’s not the youngest member to ever serve. Patrick Cannon was elected to council in 1993 when he was 26.) Ajmera says as council makes important decisions (decisions she notes that will outlast her tenure in office), it’s critical to have someone at the table who represents the incoming generation.
“There is an added pressure for being a Millennial. I bring a new perspective and I have a better understanding of the challenges Millennials face,” Ajmera says. “I understand the challenges of learning new languages and gaining acceptance in a new place.”
Ajmera realizes that some may look at the number of years she’s been in Charlotte or her young age and be, well, unimpressed. But she’s looking forward to showing them what she can do.
“It’s not the number of years. It’s the depth in that number of years. I’ve been in Charlotte over six years, but during that time I’ve connected with a lot of residents and neighborhood leaders. That experience is precious and more valuable than a number,” she says.
When people have underestimated her in the past, Ajmera says she would tell herself, “all you need to do is let your work speak for you.” And that’s what she plans to do with her time on council.