County Leaders Discuss the Importance of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion as Employers and Service Providers

Diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) are increasingly important concepts. County policymakers dove into the concept and how to better incorporate DEI into county practices as employers and service providers.

At the 2021 MACo Summer Conference session, “The Why Behind DEI: The Power of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace,” attendees discussed the importance of policy informed by diverse voices and experiences and shared best practices for incorporating them into county decision making.

The session was moderated by Parliamentarian and Delegate Jheanelle Willkins of Montgomery County. Participating in the important conversation were Berke Attila, Director of Human Resources of Montgomery County; Commissioner President of Charles County; Jacia Smith, Chief of Staff for Baltimore City; and Christine Walters, Sole Proprietor of FiveL Company.

The panel discussed the importance of county governments incorporating DEI initiatives as both public employers and service providers. Collins described the need for counties to move past what he described as “the feel good stage” of DEI work (expressing a desire for such work) to doing the actual hard work. He highlighted Charles County’s establishment of a Chief Equity Officer to do so and noted that it will take years to see the true impact of making a concerted effort, especially given long-established institutional inequities: “Now, the key is institutionalizing the idea.”

Smith dug further into the point of community and internally-led “hard work,” noting that as employers and communities: “We have to learn to have uncomfortable conversations with our peers, with our superiors, and with ourselves.”

Attila pointed to a timely example of how county governments can implement DEI work in the face of adversity and talked about Montgomery County providing virtual counseling for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, he said the county had to staff up its supply of diverse language speakers and professionals to address the needs of all of its community members.

The session was held on August 20, 2021, at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: