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Longview city workforce diversity back in spotlight

By Richard Yeakley
Jan. 20, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Three years after establishing goals for diversity in its workforce, the City of Longview still has work to do.

According to a recent report, there has been improvement in many areas since the city established its Workforce Diversity Plan in 2010. But several job categories still fail to reflect what human resources officials consider an appropriate level of diversity relative to diversity in the workforce.

"I just think we are beginning to make diversity more of a way of business, something we don't think about anymore, but something we do naturally," said Karri Hyko, the city's director of human resources, who presented the report to City Council members earlier this month.

Hyko presented data on four divisions of workers:

<ul> <li>Officials and administrators</li> <li>Professionals</li> <li>Technicians</li> <li>Protective services</li> </ul>

The report compared diversity of the city's workforce with total diversity in the Gregg County workforce. The data, which was taken on the last day of the city's fiscal year, showed both racial diversity and gender diversity.

In all four categories, minority employment was less than 80 percent of the diversity in the Gregg County workforce - a benchmark used by many human resources professionals, according to data presented by Hyko.

For instance, 11 percent of city technicians were of a minority race, while 26 percent of the technicians in the Gregg County workforce were minorities. Using the 80 percent threshold, 21 percent of the city's technicians in that category should represent a minority group.

City spokesman Shawn Hara said the 80 percent benchmark is a rule of thumb. "When it is being looked at in the legal realm, if someone is within the 80 percent they are doing a good job with employee diversity," he said.

While overall diversity still fell short, improvement was seen in the "professional" and "officials and administrators" categories.

In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 6 percent of city professionals were minorities. That rose to 11 percent in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

"To me, there is no doubt that the city of Longview is working hard to equal the minimal standards by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)," said Branden Johnson, president of the Longview chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We have to move from just being good to be great. I want to see Longview and East Texas be great."

The city is faring better in the area of gender diversity. In the "protective services" and "officials and administrators" categories, female representation was above the 80 percent benchmark.

Hyko said the progress, while gradual, was encouraging.

"It's not something where you are going to see an overnight change," Hyko said.

At the same time it was reviewing its progress on diversity in its workforce, the city also is preparing to select members for its volunteer boards, commissions and committees.

In October, minority leaders asked the City Council to make a more concentrated effort to diversify the racial makeup of standing committees and boards. At that time, a News-Journal analysis found the racial diversity of members serving on the panels better reflected the 2000 population, when Longview had a white majority of 70 percent. But by 2010, the white majority had shrunk to about 55 percent.

"The city of Longview is interested in placing qualified applicants on city committees," Hara said. But the city does not collect information on the race or age of applicants to boards, he said.

While the city's push for applications has in recent years yielded a larger pool of applications, the NAACP's Johnson said race should be considered, and an active push should be made to achieve more diversity.

He also called into question the term "qualified," as it relates to city boards and commissions, saying a hard worker with a passion to learn might prove a greater asset to a committee than someone previously qualified by their profession or training.

"Every person in management or leadership in the city should be encouraging the citizens in their circles to apply," Johnson said.

Applications for committees may be submitted to the city at any time throughout the year, but many of the positions are selected at the beginning of March.

A Longview resident interested in the serving the city may contact the city municipal building, and get more information via the city website at longviewtexas.gov.



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