FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — “My vision for Frederick County Government is fairness, equity, and opportunity for our employees, our residents, our businesses and our visitors,” County Executive Jan Gardner stated on Thursday morning.
Following the death of George Floyd and national and local protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, Gardner acknowledged the swell of voices that arose calling for an end to systemic racism. In July, she announced a search for a new county position of chief equity and inclusion officer.
“It’s important that we seize this moment to create positive change in public policy. So, the time is now to bring people together to do the hard work to advance solutions,” Gardner said.
After a months-long search, diversity trainer and educator Michael Hughes was named to the role during a public briefing.
“I believe we have been provided with a perfect storm in our day. It’s come through a series of very unfortunate, tragic, and even horrific incidents that have occurred nationally,” Hughes said. “And these incidents have awakened some people for the first time to what has actually been taking place in our societies.”
Hughes is stepping into the role after a 25-year career in higher education. During that time, he’s developed mentoring programs for minority male students and shed a light on high rates of suspensions towards students of color.
He explained that in his interest in racial equity was piqued by the literature that lined his father’s bookshelf. Hughes explained that his father loved to read, and he too took an interest.
“I saw the books on his shelf, “Soul on Ice,” “The Peculiar Institution,” “The Souls of Black Folk.” I was familiar with things but I began to take a more of a personal response and began a lot of reading on my own,” Hughes explained. “I was shocked and ashamed about what I didn’t know. It provoked me to want to know more and when you learn more you want to make a difference.”
As an administrator in high education institutions, Hughes has designed professional development courses for conferences and colleges, according to a press release.
Gardner adds that he brings a certification in Diversity and Intercultural Competence from Wake Forest University.
“I developed a knack for training along the way. I want to be able to share these things but I understand when you train around controversial issues, it takes a certain amount of tact and understanding,” Hughes explained.
The new role will assess the impact of race and economic factors in county government culture and identify inequities. Hughes will work with division directors and community partners in goals like advancing minority-owned businesses and improving workforce diversity.
“I come to this role committed to listening to you, committed to learning from you and understanding what your concerns are,” Hughes said during the press briefing and referring to the county community. “I commit myself to proving the leadership to bring about the change that’s needed, the change you want.”
Hughes will officially begin the new role on November 30th.
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