Lawrence city manager seeks permission to create new director of equity and inclusion at City Hall

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence City Hall may soon have a new position responsible for urging city government to be more racially sensitive and aware of issues related to social justice and equity.

City commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will be asked to give City Manager Craig Owens permission to start interviewing for a senior level manager to serve as the city’s director of equity and inclusion.

“I think Craig really heard in all of his meetings and listening tour that these are important values in our community and important work,” Casey Toomay, assistant city manager, said. “He recognizes we already are doing some of this work, but we really need to own our intentions, be more intentional about our work and put adequate resources to it.”

The city’s description of the position didn’t provide a specific list of projects the position would be expected to work on. But other organizations with similar positions have used it help set goals and monitor the diversity of the city’s workforce or provide recommendations on how policies approved by the city may impact different segments of society.

Toomay said the position would be looking at issues not only from the standpoint of the city being an employer but also a service provider.

“I think it will be a position that really provides guidance and leadership within the organization,” Toomay said. “It will help departments identify the data they may want to collect to demonstrate if they are meeting their equity goals and equity outcomes.”

The position is expected to do some community outreach. The job description specifically highlights the position will serve as a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community. Other items listed in the job description provided to city commissioners include:

• Facilitate “courageous conversations” to build opportunities for staff and stakeholders on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion

• Have a knowledge of “institutional racism theory,” and understand how it can be applied to government policy and theory

• Work with departments and others in city government to develop equity goals and and serve as a “strategic change agent”

• Provide technical guidance and leadership for “equity, diversity and inclusion-based initiatives and programming” throughout city government

The position was not envisioned when the city created the 2020 budget, which was done last summer when Owens was just beginning as city manager. A memo to commissioners said the position can be created without exceeding city budget totals because a management position that was budgeted for the Municipal Services and Operations Department can remain unfilled for 2020. Toomay said the city hasn’t decided on a salary amount for the new position, but said the position likely would land in a range of $100,000 to $125,000 a year.

The city has worked with the county in the past to jointly create some positions that may be serving needs that both the city and the county share. The Lawrence-Douglas County sustainability director is an example of one of those joint positions that was created in recent years. Both the county and the school district are working equity issues, and Toomay said city managers did contemplate approaching the groups about a joint position, but ultimately decided that there would be enough equity and diversity work within city government to justify a standalone position.

If commissioners approve of creating the new position, recruitment would begin in about 30 days, with a hire expected to come in the late spring, according to a memo to commissioners.

Commissioners meet at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. Authorization of the director of Equity and Inclusion position is on the city’s consent agenda, meaning it will be routinely approved as part of a group of items, unless a commissioner or member of the public seeks to remove it for a separate vote.


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