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York County to create two positions promoting diversity, inclusion

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

The York County Human Resources department will soon have a chief opportunity officer and trainer to ensure diversity and inclusion among county government staff.

The York County Salary Board unanimously approved the creation of the position Wednesday.

"Having been a part of a multinational enterprise for over two decades, I've witnessed firsthand that diversity in the workplace is an asset for both the business of the organization and their employees," county President Commissioner Julie Wheeler said.

Wheeler said a diverse workforce has more capacity for creativity, innovation and empathy than a homogeneous workforce.

The chief opportunity officer and trainer position has been in development since January, Wheeler said, but the COVID-19 outbreak put a hold on the process.

York County Commission candidate Julie Wheeler talks with family friend Judy Collins during an Election Day watch party at the Strand Theater lobby Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

The job has a starting salary of $54,338 for 40 hours of work per week.

The announcement comes at a time when nationwide protests have erupted over racial injustice and inequality.

In conjunction with the county administration's new position, the York County Planning Commission also plans to establish a community planner position dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The Planning Commission deals with a wide variety of countywide needs, including transportation, housing and community development, Director Felicia Dell said.

Members of the public might think of the Planning Commission as dealing primarily with the geographical planning of housing developments, economic development and maintenance of roads and bridges, Dell said.

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But at the start of any planning process, Dell said the Planning Commission considers the needs of the residents in a given community.

The diversity, equity and inclusion community planner will help to ensure that programs, funding and other resources are fairly distributed, without bias, to best serve the needs of all York County residents.

"My vision for this position is that someday, we wouldn't need a special initiative around diversity, equity and inclusion ... but that it's just an inherent part of how we do our work, and that it's just embedded in what we do on a day-to-day basis," Dell said.

The Planning Commission board hasn't officially approved the position or salary yet, but Dell said she anticipates a "robust, supportive discussion" at the July board meeting.

The Rev. Larry T. Walthour II from Shiloh Baptist Church in York City addressed the York County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, June 17, 2020, about the creation of a new diversity and inclusion officer position.

Several community leaders spoke in support of the new positions during the public comment period, including the Rev. Larry T. Walthour II from Shiloh Baptist Church in York City.

Walthour, who is black, said the new positions set a tone for the York community, the commonwealth and the country.

With an influx of new residents from Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other areas, Walthour said, York County's population and demographics are changing.

"I think to have this platform, at this time, sets us once again above the curve to make York a better place for equity and inclusion for all," he said.

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