City Launches Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative

The word Diversity with each letter in a different color

The City of Gastonia is working to achieve greater diversity, equity and inclusion in its services to residents and its more than 800 employees. By the end of 2020, the City plans to hire a Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The City’s Strategic Plan emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in the its governance, hiring and service delivery. Two years ago, City management began working with the City Council to develop a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. It was decided that a dedicated staff person was needed to help frame the City’s ideas and meet goals. This person will work in the community and internally.

Gastonia Deputy City Manager Todd Carpenter was asked about the reasons for the City’s DEI initiative, the goals for the program and what residents can expect.

How did the City’s DEI initiative come about?
City management began working with Council in 2018 to develop a DEI initiative focused on fairness and inclusiveness for the entire community that we serve. The strategy is to be built around a culture of understanding that embraces the differences, needs and struggles of individuals and groups so that the we can better serve our residents. We are conscientious about the fact that this will not be necessarily easy. We want to do this right and we want to be successful. This is not about numbers but about a cultural education and understanding that will result in more equality for all.

What is the City’s goal for DEI?
The goal for this fiscal year is to hire a Coordinator of DEI and acclimate this person to the City’s organization, culture, policies and decision-making processes. The overall goal is to better serve our entire community. To do this we will need to get better at acknowledging the biases that exist within every one of us and how this can impact our jobs and decisions. We need to acknowledge that the more diverse our organization can become, the better we will be internally and the better we can serve our citizens.

Why is it important for the City to have DEI goals?
Because the City of Gastonia exists to serve everyone. Regardless of a person’s age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, race, health, etc. we have a duty to serve all equally and inclusively.

How did the new Coordinator of DEI position come about?
It grew out of City management and Council gaining better insight into the complexities associated with our DEI initiative. The more training we received on DEI the more we understood our own limitations. To be successful we need someone with the right amount of training, education and experience to build around our strategies and implement the right program that will meet the City’s goals.

How will this person work with the community?
I see this person working with the community through various organizations, community watches, neighborhood initiatives, town halls, etc. I see this person working for the community through our employees, management, departments, council committees and policy making.

What can employees expect as the City’s goals are being implemented around DEI?
City employees can expect training, education, and opportunities to participate in diversity, equity and inclusion where they can be a champion for this program.