County to add two diversity staffers

county commission

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Clay County is hiring two people to connect with the area’s increasingly diverse population – one focusing on public health and the pandemic, and the other working in general services areas including social services, law enforcement and the county attorney’s office.

The county commission voted unanimously Tuesday to establish the two positions. The public health spot, dubbed a navigator, will be a part-time job with variable hours. The other, dubbed the diversity and ethnic community coordinator, is full time. Both will be funded through 2022 from the $12.5 million allocated to the county through the American Rescue Plan.

County public health director Kathy McKay explained her department hopes to hire an informal leader of the so-called BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and New American communities to educate residents about issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the importance of vaccination and information on the virus itself. Working with health promotion director Rory Beil, she said, the new hire may also address other issues like suicide prevention and youth tobacco use as the pandemic eventually reaches the more manageable endemic stage.

“We’ve been told by leaders of some communities that we have met some of their needs, but not all,” McKay told the commissioners. “We want to reach those pockets whose needs have not yet been met.”

Commission chair Kevin Campbell said the county’s ARPA committee supports the hire. “We want to make sure we include everybody. This person can go a long way toward helping with other issues that also come into play with our New Americans and other groups.”

The second position, to be managed by the county administrator’s office, will serve a broader role connecting the diverse communities who make up an increasing presence in Clay County with county agencies. Jenny Mongeau, also a member of the ARPA committee, explained the addition is intended to make sure all groups have access to county services by providing a “go-to person for those connections.” She added, “I want to give a shout-out to the Afro American Development Association and the Kurdish American Development Association for their contributions to the discussion. This action is making the point – we hear you.”

Personnel director Darren Brooke described the coordinator as a “holistic overall countywide” connection. It will offer, he said, one point of contact for New Americans, Native Americans, refugees and other people of color.

Commissioner Jenna Kahly asked, and was assured, that BIPOC representatives would be included on both hiring committees. The positions are intended to be filled by Jan. 1.

The public health navigator position is budgeted for $26,000 for the coming year, while total cost for the coordinator, including benefits, is $88,000. Neither will have an impact on the 2022 county budget.

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