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New Bloomington Office Seeks To Expand Inclusion At City Hall And Beyond

Bloomington City Hall
Eric Stock
The City of Bloomington wants to encourage more minorities to seek jobs in city government.

Bloomington wants to improve diversity among city staff to better reflect the city's population.

That's one of the goals of Michael Hurt, the city's new chief diversity and inclusion officer. City Manager Tim Gleason recently named Hurt to the new post that reports directly to the city manager.

Michael Hurt closeup
Credit City of Bloomington
Michael Hurt was recently named Bloomington's first diversity and inclusion officer.

Hurt said he wants to remove systemic inequities within city government.

“When we achieve equity, we remove those systems, we remove those components, processes that we have put in place to assist people in having those same outcomes,” Hurt said. “When you achieve equity, you don’t need those systems in place because the carriers that created those problems, they don’t exist anymore."

Hurt has been in equal opportunity compliance for 25 years and previously served as Peoria's chief diversity officer. He was Bloomington’s community relations manager before the new job was created. In that role, Hurt investigated discrimination complaints in areas that included housing and finance, and reported his findings to the city’s human resources department and human relations commission.

Hurt said he plans to talk to current city staff to see how the city can be more inclusive and will sit in on job interviews to ensure minority applicants are fairly treated.

“My presence at the interviews will be huge in terms of making sure that there is a change, that we do have a different outcome in terms of our employment,” Hurt said.

Minorities make up 10% of the city payroll, including 5% African American, 4% Hispanic and less than 1% Asian, That compares with the city’s minority population of 27%. The city doesn’t have data on hiring by gender.

Billy Tyus
Credit City of Bloomington
Bloomington Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus said the diversity and inclusion office aims to foster inclusion across race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic and other factors.

Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus added the office aims to foster inclusion across race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic and other factors.

“Part of it is making sure that people know that city government is a possibility and once a decision to ... pursue city government, that we are creating an environment where people want to stay,” Tyus said.

Tyus added the new position goes beyond advocating within city government. He said it's meant to remove barriers to employment and education throughout the city and remove all forms of discrimination.

While the city already has a commission in place to address discrimination complaints, Tyus said the new office can seek ways to proactively foster a more inclusive environment, particularly among industries that struggle to find a diverse workforce.

“We know that there is a certain number of CDL truck driving positions in the community for example, and we know that there is a gap in CDL training;can we create programs or help facilitate programs with some of our community colleges or universities in the area to make sure that training is getting to people who may be underserved?” Tyus asked.

Gleason has said the new office has been in the works for months, long before the racial justice protests that broke out over the summer following the killing of George Floyd, and other acts of police brutality.

Diversity officers also are becoming more common in the corporate world. State Farmrecently named its first diversity officer.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.