Elgin's diversity consultant's contract renewed

Consultant helps city attract minority, female workers

After making marginal gains in increasing its female and minority workforce, Elgin is renewing its contract with a diversity consultant.

Goals for this year include creating programs to help the professional development of those employees, providing more workshops for police officers - who've already gone through departmentwide training - and making sure Elgin's website reflects a commitment to diversity to make it more palatable to jobseekers, said consultant Phillip Reed, owner of SNAP Consulting and Associates.

Also, a program focusing on the value of change and a diverse workforce will be offered to all city staff members who are, or one day could be, in leadership positions. "You've got to have the leaders on board to share the message of diversity," he said.

The city council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to Reed's $30,000 yearly contract at the rate of $150 per hour, or 200 hours of work.

Councilman John Prigge asked whether there is "an end date" to the initiative. "We're always hiring new employees and we're always undertaking new initiatives," City Manager Sean Stegall replied. "It's an endless marathon."

Prigge, along with Councilmen Toby Shaw and Terry Gavin, voted against renewing Reed's contract. He was first hired in 2013.

Gavin said that diversity work can be done in-house, pointing to the city's decision to move forward with changing hiring practices for the fire department: Extra points on the entry test will be given to residents of Elgin (which is about 44 percent Latino), participants of the Fire Cadet program (many of whom are minorities) and for military service.

Data obtained by the Daily Herald shows the city employs 892 people, among which 75.9 percent are white, 15.9 percent Hispanic, and 5.3 percent black. Data for January 2013, when the city had 847 employees, shows 77.4 percent were white, 14 percent Hispanic and 5.9 percent black. The number of Asian-American and American Indian employees remained virtually unchanged at about 2.5 percent overall.

Some departments, such as building and parks and recreation, have more minorities than others.

Also, 30.6 percent of employees are female, compared to 29.3 percent in 2013. The 311 call center and purchasing and finance departments are overwhelmingly female.

Elgin has made "qualitative accomplishments" such as forming a diversity action team and creating a year-to-year plan, Reed said, cautioning that data alone doesn't tell the whole story.

"We're in the understanding phase that how we've done what we've done (in the past) has to change, because we have to put a diversity lens on top of it," he said. "It's not like you're going to install a new financial accounting system, like Oracle or SAP (and be done)."

Also, people too often equate diversity with ethnicity, but that's juts one aspect, Reed said. "Whether it would be race, or people over 40, or people with disabilities, or women, or pregnancy," he said, "all of those are part of this whole thing."

Reed was instrumental in introducing minority contractors to Elgin and forging a relationship with the Laborers Union to encourage women and minorities to get into the trades, Mayor David Kaptain said.

Working on diversity is a proactive investment that also lowers risks for the city, said Councilwoman Tish Powell, who also pushed for a consistent recruitment strategy. "We don't have to look real far, even as close as Chicago, and some of the problems that city is having, that really justify and make the work we are doing here in this area make sense."

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger agreed. "Every community in America thinks about this and supports this in some measure," she said. "We should continue this in some measure, to support inclusion and diversity in our city."

Diversity: Almost 76 percent of city employees are white

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