Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
"Think Tank" Recommendations
In July of 2018, the County Administrative Office (CAO) convened a small advisory group or “think tank,” comprised of staff representing the CAO, Community Engagement and Support Services to explore best practices around deepening the County’s commitment to DEI. Read the recommendations.
Washington County has long held the values and practices of embracing and celebrating diversity as a central part of our public service mission. One core belief that shapes our role as a municipal government is that our organization must reflect the racial, ethnic and other forms of diversity within the community we serve. Living up to this core belief entails more than just recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. It also includes examining and possibly reforming government systems and practices used in the delivery of public services to ensure equitable outcomes for our employees and the community.
Partner organizations, such as the Vision Action Network, Centro Cultural, Adelante Mujeres, the Coalition of Communities of Color and others, have recently helped Washington County and many other public-sector organizations shed light on disparate social and economic outcomes, particularly along racial and ethnic lines, that have long existed within Washington County. Many contributing factors have been identified that may lead to these disparate outcomes, including the lack of access to health care, lack of employment, lack of financial resources to pursue higher education and a disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system. However, one clear and fundamental factor is the continued influence of racism and racial bias in our society. Washington County is not immune to this phenomenon, and our responsibility to continuously address racial disparities in County policies and operations is paramount.
Deepening Our Commitment
As providers of vital public services, Washington County’s charge is to know, respect, reflect and serve the diverse people of Washington County. Critical to that effort is clear and honest assessment of our internal culture and a commitment to continuous improvement regarding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within our organizational structure.
The assignment for the DEI Think Tank was to identify strategies to recruit, hire, retain and develop a diverse workforce and create a more inclusive culture within the organization. The group worked to propose a framework that will result in a long-term, comprehensive strategic plan for DEI with an initial, internal focus on human resources and procurement. The recommendations also feature an organizational assessment, staff engagement, a resource plan for implementation and metrics for measuring success. They gratefully acknowledge that several departments and work groups have robust practices in place to address many issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. This new initiative is intended to support and be informed by these ongoing efforts.
On Tuesday, March 5, 2019, the Washington County Board of
Commissioners took formal action to accept the recommendations put forth by the DEI Think Tank. In the coming months, the framework will be shared across the organization and multiple opportunities will be made available for interested staff members to become involved as strategies are developed to operationalize DEI in a sustainable manner.