Town's first diversity coordinator introduced to public

UPDATED, Jan. 8: With a friendly wave and a "hi" to the Select Board on Monday, Jan. 6, Jillian Harvey, the town's first diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator, introduced herself to town government.

Jillian Harvey began work Dec. 30.  / Arlington Health and Human Services photoJillian Harvey began work Dec. 30. / Arlington Health and Human Services photo

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"I've been here a week, and it feels like home," she said.

Among those welcoming her, Dan Dunn said he was proud of what the town had accomplished regarding diversity, noting there is "so much more to be done."

Harvey, a Framingham native, has a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the UMass Amherst and a master's degree in public affairs from Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Her town position is full time and its salary is $68,963.

Asked in advance of the meeting what she thinks about her being hired as town first, she wrote: "I’m very excited to be starting in this brand-new position. I think it’s great that a major component of this role is to serve as the ADA Coordinator for the town.

Advancing racial equity

"I feel that the DEI coordinator role is imperative to advancing the town’s goals and initiatives to foster inclusivity, engagement, cultural awareness and racial equity, in addition to fulfilling the ADA compliance. As the role is new it will take some figuring out, but I am ready to get started.

Asked about her first steps for the position, she wrote: "I initially plan to get to know the commissions I will be working closely with -- Human Rights Commission, Disability Commission and LGBTQIA +Rainbow Commission and determine how I can best serve them and advance their missions and goals. I will be participating in a variety of trainings and workshops that will help me to formulate my vision for programs and initiatives that can advance inclusion and equity within the town."

As to how her previous experience can be put to good use in Arlington, she wrote, "My passion for diversity and equity work began in my undergraduate career at UMass Amherst, where I took on a student activist role and joined the student government to advocate for underrepresented students. 

"My professional experiences in health care and working with youth have allowed me to work with a diverse population, and advocate for underrepresented and underserved communities. Most recently while completing my graduate degree [at Brown], I held a role in which I was expanding diversity and inclusion initiatives for my program. This included researching best practices and developing and facilitating a workshop centered diversity and inclusion, implicit bias and cultural competency. I always have an open mind and am eager to consistently learn more, which I surely plan to do in this role." 

She signed her responses: "She/Her/Hers."

What her role is

Her appointment was announced in a Jan. 2 news release by Christine Bongiorno, director of town health and human services.

She began Dec. 30 and will coordinate the work of the Disability, Human Rights and Rainbow commissions. She will also be engaged in racial-equity efforts that the town will embark on over the next year in partnership with the National League of Cities' REAL (Race, Equity and Leadership) Initiative as well as GARE (Government Alliance on Racial Equity).

These are initiatives that emerged before last summer, as town officials addressed the controversy following harsh racial published remarks by Rick Pedrini in October 2018. He was put on paid leave until last April and has since been on desk duty. Continued protests culminated this fall.The matter is expected to be addressed as a townwide meeting this year.

Bongiorno officially welcome Harvey in the release: "Jillian's professional and personal experiences exposed her to the realities of lack of access to health care and the educational gaps within certain communities, which compelled her to further serve those communities and combat social injustices," "Jillian is excited to join the Arlington community and is committed to advancing positive change in the town."

Before pursuing her master's degree, Harvey worked from 2014 to 2018 in the Autism Spectrum Center at the Boston Children's Hospital and as a youth leader from 2013 to 2018 at the Brookline Teen Center. See her full resume >> 

"We are thrilled to welcome Jillian to our team," Bongiorno said. "Her broad range of experiences makes her a great fit for this position, and we are excited to engage with residents as we work to support and promote diversity, equity and inclusion in Arlington."

At the Jan. 6 board meeting, Steve DeCourcey said, "If you need anything from us, we want to hear from you, and we wish you all the best."

Changes in region

The town is taking this administrative step as other changes mark the region.

The Cambridge City Council on Jan. 6 elected Sumbul Siddiqui as the city’s new mayor – and the first Muslim mayor in the state’s history. Another first: Both the mayor and vice mayor are females. See details from Marc Levy at Cambridge Day, a YourArlington partner. 

In other firsts, from The Globe reports Jan. 7, “Boston ushers in historic diversity with new City Council, leadership.” 

"Boston entered a new political frontier Monday, officially ushering in the most diverse City Council in the city’s history and electing new leadership with what councilors said is a proactive agenda to tackle inequities in housing, transportation, and education access.

“'Representation matters, and this body is much more representative of a city that we all love and serve,'” said Councilor Kim Janey, who was elected the new council president at the panel’s first meeting of the year, the first president in decades to represent Roxbury, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods." reporred Jan. 8 diverse changes among councils in Everett, Newton, Waltham and Marlborough.

Oct. 9, 2019: From fury to reason, 27 address Pedrini issue for 3rd week

This news summary, was published Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, and updated Jan. 8, to add a link.