Steve Schewel

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Steve Schewel
PIC Mayor Steve Schewel.jpg
Mayor of Durham, North Carolina
In office
December 2017 – December 2021
Preceded byBill Bell
Succeeded byElaine O'Neal
Member of Durham City Council
In office
Vice Chair of the Durham Public School Board
In office
Personal details
Born1951 (age 71–72)
Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseLao Rubert
Alma materDuke University (BA)
Columbia University (MA)
Duke University (PhD)
  • Politician
  • academic
  • businessman

Stephen M. Schewel (born 1951) is an American politician, businessman, and academic. A Democrat, he is the former Mayor of Durham, North Carolina and formerly served on the Durham City Council and as the Vice Chair of the Durham Public School Board. Schewel is also a faculty member at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and a former faculty member at North Carolina Central University. He founded the weekly newspaper Indy Week in 1983, and served as its president until he sold the paper in 2012. In 2010 he co-founded the Hopscotch Music Festival.

Early life and education[edit]

Schewel grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia. He moved to North Carolina in 1969 to attend Duke University. While an undergraduate student, Schewel served as the president of the Associated Students of Duke University. In this capacity, he granted the charter to Duke's first LGBTQ student organization in 1973.[1] He graduated magna cum laude from Duke in 1973.[2] He earned a master's degree in English from Columbia University in 1974, and a Ph.D. in education from Duke in 1982.[3]


Business and academia[edit]

In 1983 Schewel founded the newspaper North Carolina Independent, later renamed Indy Week.[4] Schewel personally wrote the state's first same-sex marriage announcement in the paper.[5] Schewel stepped down as the paper's publisher in 1999, but continued on as president of the company until he sold it in 2012.[3] He is also a co-founder of the Hopscotch Music Festival, which he sold in 2015.[3]

Schewel is a visiting assistant professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy.[6][7] He is also a former Durham Public Schools board of education member and former English instructor at North Carolina Central University.[8]


From 2004 to 2008 Schewel was a member, and vice-chair, of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. He was elected to the Durham City Council in 2011 and served until 2017.[3] While serving on the city council, Schewel was an outspoken critic of North Carolina Amendment 1 and introduced a city resolution to support same-sex marriage. He and his wife hosted a fundraiser at their home, raising over $200,000 to assist organizations fighting against the amendment.[5]

Durham mayor[edit]

Schewel was elected mayor of Durham on November 7, 2017, to succeed the retiring Bill Bell.[9] After being sworn in as mayor, Schewel spoke about hopes for gun control and environmental regulations.[10]

On May 5, 2018, Schewel presided over the Jewish Baccalaureate Service at Duke University.[11] In 2018 he participated in Michael Bloomberg's Harvard City Leadership Initiative.[12]

In April 2019 Schewel joined local business leaders and the city's fire chief to address the state of industry in Durham after the 2019 Durham gas explosion, which affected multiple local businesses in the Bright Leaf Historic District.[13] Schewel had arrived on the scene shortly after the explosion took place.[14]

Schewel proposed a $95 million housing bond in 2019.[15]

Schewel was reelected mayor of Durham with 83.4 percent of the vote in 2019.[16]

In January 2020 Schewel stated that the city intends to help fund the mitigation of carbon monoxide issues at McDougald Terrace, a public housing complex in Durham that had to evacuate its residents due to a carbon monoxide leak.[17]

In February 2020 Schewel was criticized by Jewish residents of Durham and neighboring municipalities for supporting a municipal resolution banning police training in Israel for Durham police officers. Schewel banned the program after anti-Israel groups alleged that the program provided military-style training and encouraged racial violence against African-American communities.[18][19][20] The ban, approved in April 2018, forbids members of the Durham Police Department from engaging in international training exchanges where officers could receive "military-like training".[21] The ban was first in the United States to prevent a city's police department from engaging in international training.[21] The ban was approved under questionable circumstances and despite the fact that no police training was planned with Israel, leading many to question the motives of Schewel in promoting the ban.[22] The pro-Zionist groups North Carolina Coalition for Israel and Fight Back Now attempted to present Schewel with trophies engraved with the words "BDS MAYOR OF AMERICA - Scapegoating Jews since 2018" during a City Council public comment session.[23][18] Schewel declined to take possession of the trophies, stating, "Take that trophy and move it! I'm -- I'm gonna! You either take that trophy and move it now or you will not be coming back here to speak!"[24][18] Schewel was invited to speak at an event hosted by the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill in February 2020, but his appearance was publicly opposed by Durham Jewish residents over his role in the police training ban.[25] A complaint was filed against Schewel, the Durham City Council, and the Durham Human Relations Committee in the Greensboro federal court by the North Carolina Coalition for Israel, Rabbi Jerome Fox, Perri Shalom-Liberty, and Kathryn Wolf.[21]

On March 13, 2020, Schewel declared a state of emergency for the city of Durham, which was set to expire on March 28. The declaration was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, and prohibited groups of 100 people or more to meet.[26] On March 25, 2020, Schewel declared a stay at home order for the city.[27] The order was put in place March 26, 2020, at 6:00 pm and was issued to last until April 30, 2020.[27] The order banned individuals in Durham from traveling, going out in public, and prevents gatherings of more than 10 people, with some exceptions. The order closed non-essential businesses but encouraged employees to work from home.[28]

Schewel (middle) with Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam (left) and Durham City Councilwoman Javiera Caballero at National Night Out in 2021.

In April 2020 Schewel, alongside Durham County Board of Commissioners chairwoman Wendy Jacobs, Durham County Commissioner Heidi Carter, Durham City Council members Javiera Caballero, Jillian Johnson, Mark-Anthony Middleton, and Charlie Reece, and Raleigh City Council members Nicole Stewart and Saige Martin, pledged to take part in the #ShareYourCheck Challenge.[29] They pledged all or part of their federal stimulus payments, part of an aid package to help Americans through the COVID-19 recession onset by the COVID-19 pandemic, to go to Siembra Solidarity Fund.[29] The fund helped undocumented residents who were shut out of financial assistance due to their immigration status.[29]

On May 27, 2021, Schewel announced that he would not seek a third term as mayor.[30] In June of that month, Schewel was one of 11 U.S. mayors to form Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity (MORE), a coalition of municipal leaders dedicated to starting pilot reparations programs in their cities.[31]

Schewel left office on December 6, 2021, succeeded as mayor of Durham by Elaine O'Neal.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Schewel is Jewish and attends Judea Reform Congregation.[27][21] He said he opposes the organization Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, although he donated to one of its supporter groups, the Jewish Voice for Peace in 2017.[33]

He is married to Lao Rubert, the former executive director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center. They have two sons and live in Durham.[3] He has coached soccer for middle schools and high schools in Durham.[3] Schewel likes to run in his free time.[34]

Schewel has served on as the chair of the Durham Tech Community Foundation and has served on the boards of the Durham Public Education Network, the Durham Arts Council, the Blue Ribbon Commission for the Future of Durham High School, and Urban Ministries of Durham. He also served on the community advisory boards for WNCU and WUNC radio stations.[3]


  1. ^ "Divergent Priorities, Diverging Visions:Lesbian Separatist versus Gay Male Integrationist Ideology surrounding Duke in the 1970s and 80s" (PDF). 2013. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  2. ^ "Schewel, Stephen | Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Steve Schewel – Hart Leadership Program".
  4. ^ "Collection Number 05319: Independent Weekly Records, 1982-2004". Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  5. ^ a b "LGBTQ Rights". Steve Schewel for Durham.
  6. ^ Baumgartner Vaughan, Dawn; Eanes, Zachery; Johnson, Joe (2017-11-07). "Steve Schewel to be Durham's next mayor". The Herald-Sun. Retrieved 2019-12-28.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Stephen M. Schewel | Durham, NC".
  8. ^ "Meet Steve". Steve Schewel for Durham. Retrieved 2019-12-29.
  9. ^ "Councilman to succeed Bell as Durham mayor". 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2019-12-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Willets, Sarah (May 23, 2018). "Six Months After Becoming Durham's Mayor, Steve Schewel Has a Lot to Say". INDY Week.
  11. ^ "Durham Mayor Steve Schewel Addresses Jewish Baccalaureate Service".
  12. ^ "Bloomberg garners high-profile N.C. endorsements going into crucial Super Tuesday". The Daily Tar Heel.
  13. ^ "Mayor encourages Durham residents to support local business after deadly explosion". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. April 22, 2019.
  14. ^ Willets, Sarah (April 16, 2019). "Here's What We Know—And Don't Know—About the Explosion That Shook Downtown Durham Last Week". INDY Week.
  15. ^ "A guide to the Durham city council and mayor candidates for Tuesday's municipal election". The Chronicle.
  16. ^ Griffin, Matthew; Morrion, Maria; Olivia, Wivestad (5 November 2019). "Durham election results: Mayor, city council, housing bond all decided". The Chronicle. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  17. ^ "'It's become more urgent': Durham mayor Steve Schewel to shuffle funding for McDougald Terrace". ABC11 Raleigh-Durham. January 8, 2020.
  18. ^ a b c "Durham Mayor Steve Schewel Named Anti-Israel "BDS Mayor of America"".
  19. ^ ""The Israel Resolution"". The Tower. September 12, 2018.
  20. ^ Vaughan, Dawn Baumgartner (2018-10-02). "Bull City Politics: Jewish leaders tell council member, take Israel out of statement". heraldsun. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  21. ^ a b c d Williams, Erika (March 20, 2019). "NC City Council Accused of Stirring Anti-Semitism".
  22. ^ "Israeli Oppression Comes to Durham". Tablet Magazine. 2020-10-20. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  23. ^ "Durham Mayor Steve Schewel Named Anti-Israel "BDS Mayor of America"". YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ "Durham Mayor Steve Schewel Named Anti-Israel "BDS Mayor of America"". YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Savage, Sean. "Pro-Israel activists urge Durham Jewish Federation to drop mayor with BDS ties from event". Cleveland Jewish News.
  26. ^ "Durham mayor declares state of emergency for city". March 13, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c "Durham mayor issues stay-at-home order". March 25, 2020.
  28. ^ "Durham Mayor Steve Schewel issues stay-at-home order for Durham residents until April 30". The Chronicle.
  29. ^ a b c "Triangle Leaders Pledge Their Stimulus Payments to Undocumented Families". 20 April 2020.
  30. ^ Innis, Charlie (27 May 2021). "Durham Mayor Schewel will not seek re-election in 'rough and tumble political town'". The News & Observer. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  31. ^ "11 U.S. Mayors Commit To Developing Pilot Projects For Reparations," Associated Press (June 18, 2021)
  32. ^ Thomas, Kathryn (November 2, 2021). "Elaine O'Neal wins Durham mayoral bid, City Council incumbents keep seats". The Chronicle. Archived from the original on November 3, 2021. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  33. ^ "Reform Jews Ask Durham's Mayor to Remove Israel from Statement". October 11, 2018.
  34. ^ "Run Local Spotlight: Mayor Steve Schewel | Bull City Running".

External links[edit]