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More diverse boards wanted

The City Commission should have a policy that it will try to balance its advisory boards by race, gender and location, the mayor said Tuesday.

Commissioners were reviewing their handbook of policies and objectives Tuesday when Mayor Rita Garvey proposed adding a policy for board balance. Others agreed with her suggestion.

A Times story Tuesday pointed out that black people are virtually non-existent on city boards except when those boards deal with discrimination, public housing, low-income issues or the largely black North Greenwood area.

Of the 16 city volunteer boards, more than two-thirds of the members are male.

And, most white board members come from one of three areas: the beach and Island Estates; south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard near Belcher Road, near the Morningside-Meadows neighborhoods; and at Drew Street and Highland Avenue, in and around Hillcrest Park.

Not only had Garvey seen the Times story, but gender bias also was one of the issues discussed during a trip last week to lobby the state Legislature on city-related matters.

"I think we should have a policy that we will try to balance our boards with gender, race and location," she said.

Commissioner Bill Nunamaker said that it's been hard to find people to fill boards in the past.

"We have to take an active role," Garvey said, adding that officials must solicit volunteers.

City Manager Michael Wright said that the city's affirmative action officer will be recruiting next year and that the city is going to set up a booth at its monthly neighborhood meetings.

The city also should look at recruiting through homeowners associations and neighborhood watch organizations, Commissioner Sue Berfield said.

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