For one of NC’s Foremost Legal Experts, It’s About the People

Frayda Bluestein

If lawyers aren’t often the recipients of outpourings of gratitude, Frayda Bluestein is an exception to the rule.

“One way I can explain why I do this job is that I’m a lawyer, and, every day, people thank me for what I do,” Bluestein said with a laugh.

It’s not hard to understand why. As a faculty member at the UNC School of Government, Bluestein focuses on areas of the law related to local government authority, public records, open meetings, and transparency—all of which qualify as hot button issues in virtually any community. Her 30 years of service at the School have made her a trusted resource in challenging situations for officials, community members, and the media alike.

Bluestein’s entry into phased retirement has triggered a flood of thanks from the North Carolina officials and citizens she has worked with over her career. This fall, she was honored at the North Carolina Association of Municipal Attorneys conference. She was given lifetime membership in the Association, and an award was established in Bluestein’s name.

“I was so surprised and completely overwhelmed,” Bluestein said. “With the work that I do with them, they have the hard part. Their work is very difficult. It’s been my pleasure to be able to help them do their jobs so that, in the end, the government is working for the communities they serve. Our relationship with the Association and with the North Carolina League of Municipalities has meant a lot to me and to the School, and we are proud of the work we’ve done together over the years.”

When Bluestein entered law school at the University of California-Davis, she had no expectation of the direction her career would take. After her husband accepted a job at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, Bluestein was allowed to finish her third year of law school as a visiting student at the UNC School of Law. It was at UNC where a chance enrollment in Judith Wegner’s course on land use unexpectedly began to chart a new path for Bluestein’s future.

“If I hadn’t enrolled in Judith’s course, none of this would have happened,” Bluestein said. “She became my fairy godmother.”

Wegner helped Bluestein find her first position in private practice in Chapel Hill; several years later when Bluestein was employed with the General Assembly, it was Wegner who encouraged her to apply for an open position at the then-Institute of Government. The Institute hired her in 1991.

“What drew me to this work is that it’s interesting, it affects people in so many ways, and it’s so practical,” Bluestein said. “Academia isn’t always practical. At the School, we get to work with people who are in government, but we also help people understand how government works and help people in government make it work well for its community members. I believe in that.”

Bluestein may not have anticipated becoming one of North Carolina’s foremost experts on local government structure and authority, conflicts of interest, and transparency law, but her impact on the School and the state is undeniable. She is a fixture in several of the School’s courses, including Municipal and County Administration, Essentials of Municipal Government, the Municipal Attorneys Winter Conference and Fundamentals Workshop, and Ethics for Elected Officials. She is regularly quoted in state and national media outlets regarding issues related to transparency, public records, open meetings law, and First Amendment issues affecting public bodies. Her extensive writings on local government authority are considered a source of record by officials across the state.

“From day one at the School, Frayda has been passionate about her work,” said Gregory S. Allison, teaching professor at the School of Government and director of the Municipal and County Administration course. “She knows her profession so well and so deeply and has shared that knowledge generously with local and state officials throughout her career. As a colleague, it’s difficult to describe her in just a few words. She is completely approachable, friendly, and caring.”

She was awarded the School of Government's two-year professorship for outstanding junior faculty achievement in 1998, the two-year professorship for teaching excellence in 2004, and the David M. Lawrence Distinguished Professorship in 2014. She’s also received awards from the North Carolina Bar Association and multiple honors from the NC Association of Municipal Attorneys. This year the School has launched a scholarship endowment in Bluestein’s name, which will establish a scholarship program for public officials wishing to take the flagship Municipal and County Administration course.

Like many others, the highlights of Bluestein’s time at the School have centered around people: her colleagues, the officials she worked alongside, the community members, and members of the press she advised.

“There are so many people who were important to me during my time at the School, I can’t even pick just one,” Bluestein said. “People here are so dedicated and so willing to help you with a problem. There were so many people I learned from just by watching them work; I’m grateful for the support from my female colleagues. It was very important for me to see them and their success.”

As Bluestein continues her phased retirement, she will work on a variety of writing projects for the School in support of junior colleagues and looks forward to having time for traveling, visiting friends across the country, and volunteering. And the things she’ll miss about working at the School? The answer is simple.

“I’ll miss everything,” Bluestein said. “I’ll miss being around the people here and learning what they’re working on, and I will miss the interactions with community members and city attorneys, the press, and the wide range of people we get to work with. People here are so committed to the mission. It’s a really incredible mission.”

Fundraising is ongoing for the Frayda Bluestein Scholarship Endowment Fund at the School of Government. Visit to contribute.