During the City of Conyers’ Annual Retreat in January of 2020, Human Resources Director Casey Duren presented to the mayor and council an idea to establish “The Connect Committee.” The committee’s purpose was to foster an environment where employees could collaboratively work as a team despite any physical, cultural or personal differences.
After establishing the Connect Committee, Mayor Vince Evans had a broader vision and created a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board for local citizens. Those appointed to the board were Muddessar Ahmad, Jennifer Baker, Cheryl Board, Thomas Dean, Rebecca Gibbons, Ronnie Godwin, Justin Kenney and Yvette Morton Williams.
“These citizens are willing to reach out to help us better connect city leadership and employees with those we serve to break down barriers and bridge any gaps that may divide us,” Evans said.
The mayor’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board will focus on three pillars: communication, serving as unity champions, and soliciting and providing feedback. The board will serve as a resource for city government and the community by providing information and communication to facilitate understanding while celebrating constituents’ differences to eliminate discrimination and bias. Finally, the board will provide input to advise the mayor and city council on best practices for conducting outreach to a diverse community.
“I was honored when Mayor Evans asked me to be a part of this advisory board. It is encouraging to know that the mayor wants to hear from other community members and make sure everyone feels included,” said Muddessar Ahmad, chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.
The board’s first meeting was in December 2020. During the board’s second meeting in January 2021, Evans and Duren reached out to GMA director of equity and inclusion, Freddie Broome, to present GMA’s equity and inclusion initiatives and offer any words of advice to the newly formed board.
Broome presented the key points of the REAL framework process developed by the Center for Creative Leadership. The framework focuses on providing guidance to organizations and boards to hone the concepts of understanding: Reveal relevant opportunities; Elevate equity; Activate diversity; and Lead inclusively. Broome cautioned the board to avoid the pitfalls of impatience, lack of commitment and establishing unrealistic goals.
Contact Casey Duren for more information at 770-929-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.