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The City of Columbia announced on Monday that it has hired its first diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
D’Andre Thompson was selected by Columbia’s City Manager De’Carlon Seewood. According to a news release, Thompson will lead “the development and implementation of DEI initiatives that help support the City’s Strategic Plan.”
Thompson has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and a master of business administration from Columbia College.
Thompson will start May 1, and he said it will involve, “helping the city evaluate some of their policy and practices.”
“I’m really looking very intentionally at how they recruit, retain and really get people on board with their mission and vision,” Thompson said. “Ensuring that there’s continuity and kind of some similarity and people’s understand and comprehension of what the goals are for the city.”
The city spokesperson Sydney Olsen said this is a position Columbia’s City Council and staff had been looking to add for some time.
Thompson said he believes the addition of the DEI officer role is important.
“We need people who can really understand the lived experiences of others in our community, and ensure that theirs a voice to that,” Thompson said. He added that he wants to help the city, “make sure that everyone feels included, feels welcomed, and feels like Columbia is their home.”
Olsen said the City would first focus on getting Thompson acquainted with the city’s processes. She said this includes setting up meetings between Thompson and staff. She also said Thompson will initially focus on internal issues, including the city’s practices and hiring practices, before pivoting to include the community.
Olsen said they would like to eventually see the creation of an equity toolkit and an improvement in the city’s hiring practices as a part of its long-term goals for Thompson and the DEI position.
Thompson said that he appreciates the City for, “making this opportunity available, and I really do look forward to seeing what’s next.”
Olsen said Thomspon will work directly with the city’s directors, assistant directors, and those who work directly with the city’s policies as well as City Council.
The city already had funding for the position set aside in its 2023 fiscal year budget. According to the city budget, the City Manager’s budget this year increased by $400,000 to include two DEI positions, as well as a Grant Administrator position. Thompson will make $81,000 annually, according to Olsen.
The hiring for this position comes about a month after the University of Missouri announced it will no longer use the diversity faculty hiring rubric that was developed in 2018. A March letter from UM System President Mun Choi said the school will ask applicants to share their experiences and expertise that show diversity. The statement will replace all the prior requests for diversity, equity and inclusion.
Republican lawmakers have targeted such statements in hiring for higher education.
“Timing is everything, especially when you’re trying to introduce something new. The City of Columbia understood that there was a need to seriously evaluate the current landscape of its operations and interactions with the public as it relates to big picture strategic planning and determining meaningful goals,” Thompson said in a press release from the city. “By introducing the inaugural diversity, equity, and inclusion officer position through the City Manager’s Office, the City of Columbia has made a commitment to ensuring its big picture strategic planning and goals are emblematic of equity and inclusivity.”
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