Recognizing the wide diversities represented by Hillsborough’s varied populations, county officials now are seeking area residents to serve as their first Diversity Advisory Council.
At least 11 categories, reflecting the ethnically and culturally different segments of the county, including South Hillsborough, are to be included in the initial council that county leaders want to begin forming next week. The deadline for application is Monday, October 1.
Formation of the Diversity Advisory Council or DAC has been led by At-large County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who represents the interests of the South County as well as all other portions of the 1,000-square-mile jurisdiction.
“It is imperative,” Beckner told The Observer this week, “that we as a county recognize and listen to all points of view in order to become a stronger and more economically competitive county”.
Based on that conviction, Beckner encouraged his six fellow commissioners to adopt a formal resolution which outlines the purpose, structure and authority of the DAC.
Establishing that commissioners want to recognize “diversity and varying viewpoints in Hillsborough County without expanding County government,” the resolution defines the DAC purpose as ensuring that the diverse needs and ideas of county residents “are identified and communicated in a timely manner so that their interests can be addressed…”
And to that end, commissioners are moving toward appointing two representatives from each of 11 categories, plus a 12th unrestricted classification. The first 11 ethnic and cultural groups to be reflected on the DAC are: African-American; Caribbean; Far East Asian; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender; Hispanic or Latino; Indian Asian; Middle Eastern; Native American; Northern European; People with Disabilities, and Southern European. The last category is dubbed “at large” without the requirement of identification with any cultural or ethnic segment.
Representatives of each of these groups would create a council of 24 and their terms of office would be for two years, according to the resolution.
Once constituted, the resolution directs, the council would meet several objectives, including development of a strategic plan drafted with input from county citizens, from the Office of Community Affairs and from the Economic Development Department. This plan would be anticipated by the BOCC within six months.
The DAC also would be charged with developing programs and activities to promote “a better understanding of diverse populations and issues in Hillsborough County” plus be authorized to discharge other responsibilities as directed by the commission.
The council also would have staff support in performing some of its obligations, the resolution states.
In short, Beckner noted, the Council’s goals would be advising commissioners on diversity issues affecting county government, devising programs and activities to enhance understanding on diversity issues and serving as ambassadors to facilitate communication between county government and its diverse constituent populations. “My purpose here is to strengthen the relationships and ensure communications between the diverse groups and their government,” he added.
South Hillsborough residents interested in serving on this first DAC can download an application from www.hillsboroughcounty.org/documentcenter/view/4635, make a telephone request at 813-276-8401, or obtain additional information from Albert Coleman in the Office of Community Affairs by addressing him through his email: Colemana@hillsboroughcounty.org. Completed applications can be forwarded no later than Monday by email, by facsimile or by mail.
Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson