Employees Share Learnings from Equity Conference

A group of employees who attended the Governing for Racial Equity (GRE) Conference in Portland, Ore., last month came back with new ideas and renewed energy for challenging racial inequity in our community.

“People brought all of their expertise and experience to the conference, and our job now is to bring that back to our work and to grow it,” said Jo Anne Fox, a Budget Analyst in the Office of Performance, Budget and Strategy, at a lunch and learn discussion for employees.

More than 550 people from around the United States attended the conference to learn more about what other governments are doing to achieve racial equity and eliminate institutional and structural racism.

GRE PanelPanelists Richard Gelb, Paula Harris-White, Matias Valenzuela, Ericka Turley, Jo Anne Fox discuss the GRE Conference.

The conference attendees shared their experiences and learnings at a lunch and learn discussion in the Chinook Building last week.

Gerty Colville, Project/Program Manager with Solid Waste Division, spoke about a session she attended on inventive ways to bring more at-risk youth, people of color and populations experience economic disparity into public service, and her concern for how we’re going to ensure our workforce is more representative of the diversity of our communities.


“I’m troubled by some of the barriers we have to bringing in folks who can do a lot of the work we do but don’t have the five year degrees, don’t have the Master’s (degree), and don’t have the same access; and I think that’s something we’re all struggling with,” Gerty said.

Paula Harris-White, Manager of Equity and Social Justice Programs in the Department of Executive Services,  pointed to estimates that suggest a 46 percent turnover in County employees over the next five years due to retirements and general staff turnover, and what this means for our recruitment.

“This gives King County a great opportunity to look at the way it hires, promotes, retains, everything it does around employment, and think about how we are going to be more reflective of the communities we serve,” Paula said. “Often we try to hire people to replace the person who just left without realizing they started at another level and they worked up to that level. But we still want to hire someone with the experience of the person who just walked out the door as opposed to trying to make the most of the opportunity.”

You can review the conference materials here.