Achievements of the Diversity Committee in 2003-2004

Vanessa Conrad
Manager of Administration
City & County of San Francisco, California
Chair, APWA Diversity Committee

The Diversity Committee has had an extraordinary year filled with new ideas and innovations. There are so many things to share with you; I am almost at a loss of where to begin. So I will begin with the 2003 Congress in San Diego.
 
The year began with the seventh First-Timers Meeting at the 2003 Congress to welcome approximately 130 new attendees. From the responses to the survey handed out and returned at the meeting, it was a huge success. President Dwayne Kalynchuk, Executive Director Peter King, and most of the Board of Directors attended a portion of the meeting, which showed their support of the Diversity Committee and its value to the association, and greatly impressed the attendees.

The speaker for the Diversity Luncheon was Mayor Judith Valles of the City of San Bernardino. Her enthusiasm and anecdotes of her own experience with diversity held everyone's attention and no one wanted her presentation to end. She was mesmerizing.

During Congress, the Diversity Committee sponsored three educational sessions. During our committee meeting, we planned three educational sessions on diversity-related topics for the 2004 Congress in Atlanta. Additionally, all the committee members commented on how positive the First-Timers Meeting was, and new ideas were discussed to make it even more inclusive for our upcoming conference in Atlanta. Let's not forget the round, green Diversity/Inclusiveness stickers that we placed on as many registrants' badges as we could to remind them of diversity. Look for them again in Atlanta!

The Diversity Exemplary Practices Award was presented to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Division of Environmental Health & Engineering for the Program/Organization Category. It was a powerful presentation and was well-deserving of the award.

Over the course of the year, the Diversity Committee developed a brochure on the "Top Ten Ways to Increase Membership and Leadership at the Chapter Level." This took a lot of work and effort, but the result makes it so easy for chapter board members to help implement diversity into membership and leadership at their level within their chapter. The committee also created a brochure on the responsibilities of the chapter diversity liaisons. This provides chapter board members and newly-appointed chapter diversity liaisons with a listing of responsibilities and resources for chapter liaisons.

The committee also published nine articles in the APWA Reporter and two articles in Bridges over the past year, and continues to post inclusiveness quotes in the Diversity Awareness Corner in each issue of the APWA Reporter.

The APWA Board of Directors created a Board Diversity Task Force to examine the inclusiveness issues in APWA's national leadership. The outcome of this work can be found in the sidebar to this article. This task force worked very hard this past year and the outcome from this will be invigorating to the organization as a whole.

Future plans
The committee is working on an APWA membership video that shows the ethnic diversity of our members. This was an idea suggested in August 2003 by Jason Cosby (former Diversity Committee member) and the committee ran with it. Hildo Hernandez (current Diversity Committee member) has sought permission from the Southern California Chapter to expand upon their membership video. Plans are to provide this video to each of the APWA chapters to use for membership recruitment purposes and to portray the diversity of our membership.

The committee is also discussing how they might work with the APWA Leadership & Management Committee to develop a diversity brochure related to that committee's core leadership competencies.

The committee is finalizing some exciting ideas for this year's First-Timers Meeting, such as use of a PowerPoint presentation during the meeting; adding the latest diversity brochure to the packet of materials; continuing with the diversity "Inclusiveness" stickers; holding a drawing for an APWA premium item at the end of the meeting; and continuing with the most popular aspect of the meeting—networking with other first-time attendees. For the first time, the Diversity Committee will have special identification ribbons at Congress. First-time attendees will know that when they see us around the convention center, they can come up and chat with us regarding any diversity questions they may have.

The committee will continue developing articles for the APWA Reporter and Bridges for next year. Topics being discussed include current court rulings regarding diversity, how diversity benefits the municipality, and how to find champions and build partnerships and relationships.

Last but definitely not least, I would like to thank the following incredible Diversity Committee members for granting me the honor of chairing this committee this past year. These are remarkable people, dedicated to diversity and inclusiveness not only within their organizations and personal lives, but also involving themselves with APWA to share these ideas with all of us. They are:

  • John Benda
  • Hildo Hernandez
  • Cora Jackson Fossett
  • Karen Johnson
  • Teresa Scott
  • Larry Lux, Board Liaison

I cannot end this report without a special thanks and recognition to the one person who holds us all together. We as members may change throughout the years but without Kaye Sullivan, there would not be an APWA Diversity Committee as strong and vibrant as it is. She is the true strength behind all of us. I also need to mention Nickole Blankenship who seems to know what we need to do our work before we do.

Thank you again for an incredible year in which we were part of something special.

Vanessa Conrad can be reached at (415) 648-6882 or at vconrad@sfwater.org.

APWA Board of Directors embraces inclusiveness within the APWA membership and leadership

The APWA Board of Directors created a Board Diversity Task Force in May 2003 with a charge "To examine how 'inclusiveness' fits into our leadership development and how that translates to the composition of the Board of Directors, recognizing that there may be segments of our memberships that do not have leadership opportunities." Members of the task force included:

  • Richard Ridings, Chair
  • Grant Anderson
  • Ann Burnett
  • Herb Fain
  • Robert Guletz
  • Hildo Hernandez
  • Larry Lux

The task force held four conference calls and concentrated its efforts on how to increase inclusiveness within APWA, beginning with the APWA leadership. Current demographics of APWA were reviewed, comments from a 2003 House of Delegates roundtable on diversity in APWA leadership were reviewed, and years of experience from the task force members were tapped to formulate ideas and recommendations.

The task force presented their final report to the APWA Board of Directors in June 2004 and the Board declared its commitment to inclusiveness in leadership within APWA through the following statement:

The Board of Directors of the American Public Works Association embraces inclusiveness within the APWA membership and leadership and will continually work to strengthen the diversity of its leadership by utilizing the vast contributions of the association's diverse membership.

The Board of Directors will annually evaluate progress on inclusiveness at the national leadership level, with the assistance of the Diversity Committee. The Board also approved a communication tool on "Top Ten Ways to Increase Membership and Leadership at the National Level" and will provide this brochure to the national and chapter level leadership on an annual basis. That brochure will be mailed to chapters and national level leadership in the near future.

Another brochure developed by the APWA Diversity Committee on "Top Ten Ways to Increase Membership and Leadership at the Chapter Level" was sent to chapters in May.

The association has made great strides toward promoting inclusiveness in APWA. However, additional work needs to be accomplished in order to reach the point where it becomes so common for us to appreciate the differences in everyone and what they have to offer, that we become inclusive without thinking about it.

The Board of Directors believes that the leadership of APWA must lead by example and that inclusiveness will permeate throughout the entire association if it is endorsed and embraced at the top level.

If you have questions, please contact Kaye Sullivan, Deputy Executive Director, at (800) 848-APWA or at ksullivan@apwa.net.