City officials on Tuesday announced the hiring of Lenice C. Emanuel as St. Petersburg’s first Chief Equity Officer.
According to a news release, Emanuel is an executive with 25 years of experience in nonprofits, including as chief executive officer of the YWCA of Tampa Bay from 2010 to 2015. Her work starts Monday.
Emanuel’s job is to 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, according to the job posting. The goal is to work with the community to oversee and advance racial equity and inclusion within city government.
The city received 112 applications for the job, said spokesperson Alizza Punzalan-Randle. Emanuel will make a salary of $185,000.
“Lenice has the experience and track record in bringing diverse groups together to engage in meaningful dialogue that can positively impact a range of social justice issues — here at the City and in the community,” said Mayor Ken Welch in a statement. “Not only am I excited about Lenice’s return to St. Petersburg, but she is the right leader to ensure that intentional equity remains at the forefront of my administration’s priorities.”
The Welch administration created the position in May. It fulfills 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.
Welch told city staff in an Aug. 10 memo that the city’s urban affairs department and director of education and youth opportunities have been reorganized under the chief equity officer. As a member of the mayor’s cabinet and executive team, Emanuel will report to the mayor’s chief of staff, Doyle Walsh.
Emanuel spent the past eight years as the Executive Director of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice, a statewide agency focused on racial justice and reconciliation across the state of Alabama. Prior to her work at YWCA Tampa Bay, she was the CEO of YWCA Greater Mobile and the Director of Grants & Community Development for the city of Prichard, Alabama.
Local historian Gwendolyn Reese was one of the authors and 11 researchers who conducted the structural racism study and pushed for more action. She celebrated the hire and noted that Emanuel is coming on board as Nikki Gaskin-Capehart recently became the first female CEO of the Pinellas Urban League and Kanika Tomalin became president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg — three major positions held by Black women, Reese pointed out.
“I’m seeing St. Petersburg being a model for equity in our country,” she said. “I’m so excited to be alive to see this and be in it.”