Metro Human Relations Commission launches executive-director search

As it moves forward with an ambitious agenda that includes documenting discrimination in both the public and private sectors, the Metro Human Relations Commission has begun a search for a new executive director.

That position has been held for the last six years by Kelvin Jones, who left June 30 to resume his private law practice. Chief among the duties his replacement will be tasked with are ensuring that the commission’s basic mission, which is to provide community-wide education to prevent discrimination in employment and housing, is met, but also to begin tracking data regarding sexual orientation and gender-identity discrimination in accordance with Metro’s expanded nondiscrimination statute.

The commission, created in 1965, also has an ongoing roster of community meetings and plenty of other business, so the new executive director will have a lot of heavy lifting. With that in mind, the commission is drafting a series of five questions to send out to more than 100 community partners and organizations, all designed to get input as a national search process begins, said Scott Ridgeway, chair.

“We want to gather some information and come up with questions that will coincide with the strategic plan for the commission that we put into place last year,” Ridgeway said. ‘Then we can work closely with Metro Human Resources to secure the most appropriate candidates.”

The goal is to have someone in place by this fall, and given the national job market there should be no dearth of qualified candidates. That said, the job has changed, and continues to change, so the process will be as slow and deliberate as it needs to be.

“The job description and goals are very different than they were six years ago, and we’re going to go to the national organization that we belong to and work with that association as well,” Ridgeway said. “We’re hoping to prescreen candidates as much as possible, because we think we’ll get anywhere fro 300 to 400 folks applying for this job.”

A secondary and equally important goal is to keep the process transparent, with involvement at every stage from elected officials and the community,” he added.

“The most important thing is that we find the most qualified candidate, and if takes longer then we’re not going to rush it,” Ridgeway said. “If it takes longer, it takes longer.”

The commission also is working to fill vacancies within its ranks. Commissioners Iris Buhl, Hal Cato and Ridgeway have recently been reappointed to new terms, but there were six vacancies on the body as of June. Interested parties should contact Mayor Karl Dean’s office to get started on the process, as the mayor appoints citizens to the body, Ridgeway said.

“He then makes a recommendation to the full Metro Council, and they approve the appointment,” he said. “We were working on getting these slots filled when the floods came, and that’s just back-burnered everything. We know of a couple of people who have turned in paperwork, and we’re excited to see who else might want to serve.”

Like the new executive director, the commissioners will have plenty on their plate.

“We have a lot of responsibilities,” Ridgeway said. “We are continuing our listening tours, as well as our regular committee meetings and other activities. But we are getting people who, like our new director, will be thinking outside of the box. We have very dynamic subcommittees working on education, advocacy and compliance, and so we’re moving forward on a lot of things. We have a lot to do.”

For more information on the Metro Human Relations Commission, and to see a current list of commission members, click here.

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