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St. Petersburg creates a new position: chief equity officer

The job posting fulfills one of the recommendations from the city’s structural racism study.
 
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said the new chief equity officer position is a key part of his leadership team. “Intentional equity and inclusive progress are foundational to my administration,” he said. “An accountable and responsive government is only possible when our commitment to equity is shown, not just through words, but through action.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said the new chief equity officer position is a key part of his leadership team. “Intentional equity and inclusive progress are foundational to my administration,” he said. “An accountable and responsive government is only possible when our commitment to equity is shown, not just through words, but through action.” [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 9, 2023|Updated May 9, 2023

St. Petersburg on Monday announced a new role at City Hall: chief equity officer.

The job: Create and carry out policies and practices that put everyone on the same playing field, in and out of City Hall, and make sure equity and inclusion are baked into city government policies, procedures and practices. The goal is to work with the community to oversee and advance racial equity and inclusion within city government.

In a statement, Mayor Ken Welch said the position is a key part of his leadership team.

“Intentional equity and inclusive progress are foundational to my administration,” Welch said. “An accountable and responsive government is only possible when our commitment to equity is shown, not just through words, but through action.”

Related: St. Petersburg racism study: Black residents face higher mortality, lower wages

The position would fulfill one of five recommendations made from a city-commissioned structural racism study. Since those findings were approved by the City Council in December 2021, the city committed $319,412 in the 2023 budget to create a diversity, equity and inclusion office, but didn’t post the job opening because Welch wasn’t certain how the reporting structure would work.

Related: St. Petersburg’s structural racism study authors are eager to see action

That’s clear now. According to a news release, the chief equity officer will be a member of the mayor’s Cabinet but will report directly to the mayor’s chief of staff, Jordan “Doyle” Walsh.

Minimum qualifications include a bachelor’s degree with major coursework in public administration, business administration or a related field; four years of experience in diversity, equity and racial work and/or work with social justice programs; one year of supervisory experience; and the ability to conduct accurate and thorough research and prepare clear and concise reports, presentations and communications.

The chief equity officer could be among the highest-paid jobs at City Hall. According to the posting online, the maximum salary shall not exceed $198,121. As of October, Welch made a salary of $227,910.

The job is specific about focusing on equity, and not diversity, equity and inclusion — another ask by the authors of the structural racism study. Local historian Gwendolyn Reese, one of the authors and 11 researchers who conducted the study, said she didn’t want the office to be so broad that it loses sight of its purpose: to address decades of structural racism against the Black community.

Reese said Walsh told her Friday about the job posting.

“I’m just ecstatic that they have posted the job,” Reese said. “I’m very, very pleased that they’re calling it a chief equity officer, which is so much more focused in terms of the work. It will probably do so much more to achieve equity for Black people than if it had been a general DEI.”

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St. Petersburg voters turned down immortalizing the role of a chief equity officer and protecting funding to support that work in the city charter. Those two charter amendments were among a host of ballot questions that voters rejected in November 2021.

Welch went ahead with setting money aside for an equity office. The objective for the position, according to the job posting, is to “institutionalize equity and inclusion into city government.” That falls in line with one of the structural racism study’s action steps: “continuing support for the work started by the study.”

The job posting calls for “ensuring staff and resident voices are integrated into equity and inclusion strategy and practices” and “managing and monitoring data relevant to organizational racial and social equity gaps, impact analysis, and developing metrics to measure effectiveness of equity and inclusion goals.”

That tackles another recommendation from the structural racism study: reviewing existing and proposed policies for impact on race equity. And it hints at another: the creation of a permanent resident-led race equity commission.

The job posting does not mention the structural racism study itself, unlike the news announcement. Nor does it mention exploring the possibility of reparations — the fifth recommendation in the study.