Arizona Republic
 March 17, 2007

Author: Art Thomason, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 5
Revenue isn't the only resource in short supply at Mesa City Hall.

Including officials and administrators, police and firefighters, the city's workforce needs more women and minorities to reflect the community's population of females and non-Whites.

That's the findings of the city's latest look at its personnel roster as part of an Affirmative Action Plan to expand diversity in the labor force over the next four years.

"There are great benefits of having a very diverse workforce," City Manager Chris Brady said during an interview this week. "As a community we serve a variety of cultures and languages of people who interface with government a lot."

Yet the city has to catch up to bring equity to the racial and gender mix, particularly in the public safety departments where employees have the highest percentage of personal contact with residents.

"I've told both the police chief and fire chief that we need more females -- better yet, minority females -- in their departments," Brady said. "We've got to do a better job."

Diversity a goal

Brady's admonishment, city officials say, is supported by Mesa's multifaceted affirmative action plan to attract more women and minorities amid growing competition for their job applications from other municipalities and private enterprise.

The plan is based on goals, not the use of quotas that led to the nation's contentious debate over affirmative action as an answer to racial inequality and to a U.S. Supreme Court decision banning inflexible quota systems in affirmative action programs.

In January, the city hired Bernadette Brown as a part-time human resources recruiter to organize recruiting activities, coordinate outreach efforts and build ties with schools and colleges in an effort to get young people to consider careers in government and improve diversity.

A diversity-oriented, citywide recruitment team made up of representatives from all city departments was formed within the last year to assist with community outreach programs, job and career fairs and promotions of public service careers to young people.

"There's going to be a more concerted effort and the recruiting base will be expanded, especially with new openings," said Mary Berumen, the city's diversity director. "One of our main challenges is establishing relationships with minority communities and professional organizations and special-interest groups that represent minorities to let them know when we have openings."

Since he took over as city manager in January 2006, Brady has hired former Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief George Gascon, a Hispanic, as the city's top cop and promoted Debra Dollar from deputy city manager to assistant city manager to be responsible for day-to-day operations.

Brady said Gascon and Dollar were the most qualified for the jobs, but he also hopes the appointments bolster confidence that even the city's highest jobs are available to qualified candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender.

"It's a challenge," he said. "Minority candidates are on the top of every American corporation and government recruitment list."

Exacerbating the difficulty, he said, is the shrinking pool of labor that meets job requirements.

"We're just not getting the same number of applicants we used to get," Brady said.

Gascon said his biggest challenge is recruiting females and African-Americans.

"We also need candidates, regardless of their race or ethnicity, who are able to communicate in other languages, particularly Spanish," he said. "We are looking for ways to enhance our ability to hire a more diverse workforce."

The Fire Department also is intensifying minority recruitment efforts through newsletters to colleges and universities and orientation programs that introduce any qualified person to a fire service career, Assistant Chief Mary Camelli said.

"We want to try to reach as many out there as we can to match the community we serve," she said.

Looking for help

City officials say Mesa's proactive affirmative action approach has helped increase the percentage of minorities holding municipal jobs in the past 10 years. Even at that, the current figure, 22 percent, is less than the percentage of minorities living in Mesa.

And that disparity, they say, is likely to expand with the booming growth of the Hispanic population.

Records show that if it weren't for service, maintenance and skilled-labor positions that the vast majority of minority city employees hold, Mesa's diversity profile would be a paler shade of White.

For example, Hispanics hold 30 percent of the city's 330 service and maintenance jobs but 8.4 percent of the city's 119 administrative posts.
They account for 17.26 percent of all city jobs.

African-Americans make up 3.33 percent of the service and maintenance workforce while holding 2.52 percent of the administrative jobs. Across the entire city workforce, Blacks account for 3 percent of the jobs.

"It's not so much the overall number of minorities, it's where they're located in the hierarchical system," said Phil Austin, president of the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.

Just how far the city is behind also depends on what figures are used to measure Mesa's minority status.

While the city officially recognizes the 2000 census, which shows that Hispanics represent 20 percent of the city's population, Austin said the figure has risen to nearly 25 percent, according to the mid-decade census estimate.

Native Americans and Asians each comprise 2 percent the population. People of other races and those of two or more races make up 12 percent of the population.

Mesa Public Schools officials said that nearly 36 percent of the district's students were Hispanic as of October 2006.

Mesa conversations

What do you think of Mesa's affirmative action efforts? Is it important?
Should the city even bother? E-mail your comments to; mail them to Editor, The Mesa Republic, 106 E.
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