Mark was elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners in 2012, and in December 2015 was elected Vice-Chair. Since his election, Mark has served as a leader on a number of county boards and commissions, including the Family Success Alliance (the county’s new child poverty initiative), the Orange County Partnership for Young Children, the Alcohol Beverage Commission, the Board of Social Services, the HOME (affordable housing) Committee, and the county’s Small Business Loan Program, among others.
He has made issues of social justice and community engagement a priority in county policy-making, focusing on poverty, affordable housing, education equity, racial and socio-economic diversity, and broad-based resident participation in county government. With his background and experience as a civil rights lawyer, small business owner, and longtime community activist, Mark brings a unique perspective, clarity of vision, and leadership to the board.
A graduate of UNC Law School, Mark has been a civil rights lawyer for over 20 years, and is the Managing Attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. There, he leads a team of lawyers that advocates for minority and low wealth communities that are fighting the continuing effects of racial discrimination and exclusion. Mark has challenged inadequate and substandard housing, lack of access to public water and sewer, the siting of environmental hazards, and school segregation in communities all across the state. He also teaches a class in civil rights at the UNC School of Law.
Mark has taught in both the Duke and the UNC Law School Community Development Clinics, working with law students to provide legal representation to community organizations promoting economic development in under-resourced communities. He worked for Self-Help, a leading North Carolina community development corporation. From 1994-1997, he was a partner at McSurely, Dorosin & Osment, a Chapel Hill law firm concentrating on civil rights, constitutional law, and employment discrimination.
Even before being elected county commissioner in 2012, Mark had a range of experience in local government. He served on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen from 1999-2003, co-chaired Orange County’s Census 2000 Committee, and was a member of the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force. He was a board member and president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro ACLU and has been actively engaged in a number of local civil rights and social justice issues.
Mark, his wife Bronwyn Merritt, and their three children — Esmé, Archer and Valentina — live in Carrboro. Mark and Bronwyn have deep roots in the community. For ten years, they owned and managed Hell, and popular nightclub in downtown Chapel Hill. Bronwyn also owned an art gallery and a real estate company in downtown Carrboro, and has been a member of the Orange County Arts Commission for ten years. Their kids attend Frank Porter Graham Bilingue Elementary and Chapel Hill High School.