Building a More Diverse Amherst Town Government

Full report

Executive Summary

The Amherst League of Women Voters supports the Town Resolution on Racial Equity in seeking greater diversity on Town committees, boards, commissions, and Town staff. We suggest a strategy that moves beyond intentions to establish specific systems and steps for the organization, procedures, and actions that we believe will lead to greater diversity and racial equity. We note that people of color often don’t feel welcome to serve on Town committees or to apply for jobs in Town government, and that those who do serve have often felt undervalued and disrespected. To rectify this situation, we offer the following proposals.

Commit to a strategy to build motivated staff and volunteers who together create:

  • Outreach that is self-perpetuating, sustainable and on-going;
  • A robust outreach database, used by hiring committees, staff, volunteers and existing committee members to identify and recruit diverse candidates; and
  • A strong, supportive organizational culture where all members feel valued, and where leadership encourages committees to welcome diverse issues and views.

The Town Manager, with the support of the Town Council, would initiate a process of establishing an ‘Outreach Team’ of motivated staff and volunteers, who will reach out to people of color and other under-represented citizens to serve on Town committees, boards and commissions, and to apply for positions in Town government. Specific steps to be considered would include:

  • Establish an outreach database of knowledgeable and engaged contacts in diverse communities who will be able to identify and help recruit potential candidates; include key persons beyond Amherst, who have networks in communities of color;
  • Establish criteria and simplify the process for application and appointments to ensure that these are inclusive, welcoming, anti-racist, and transparent;
  • Utilize a variety of media channels such as targeted newspapers, social media, associations, radio, TV stations that reach people of color, to announce new Amherst policies, and committee openings and job opportunities. The Outreach Team will circulate job descriptions, be in touch with potential applicants, and respond to questions;
  • Encourage a diverse pool of candidates before any committee membership or staff position is filled; when there are two or more candidates with close to equal qualifications, appoint the person who brings the most diversity;
  • Create a budget to cover committee member childcare and transportation costs, and consider including funds for honoraria;
  • Consider establishing internships on committees and for staff positions to increase diversity. Open these to university and high school students who may meet academic requirements with this service.

The League is pleased to support the Town’s commitment to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in Town governance. We hope these proposals will be helpful in realizing this goal.