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As Springfield, Mass., City Council Moves To Diversify Cabinet, Mayor Pushes Back

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.
File photo
MassLive / MassLive.com/photos
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

On Monday night, the Springfield, Massachusetts, City Council will consider a resolution that calls for more diversity in Mayor Domenic Sarno's cabinet. 

Racial and ethnic minorities make up more than 60 percent of Springfield's population, but fewer than 20 percent of the city's department heads.

Last week, Springfield city council president Orlando Ramos and eight other councilors sent a letter to Sarno, saying they want to help him address the racial discrepancy. (Read the council's original letter here, dated December 8, 2017.)

“We want to have a conversation about how we can make the leadership at the top reflect the population of the city of Springfield a little bit better,” Ramos said.

Sarno recently hired a new fire department commissioner and dispatch director, both white men.

Ramos said the council was informed there were qualified minority candidates. But Sarno said racial diversity was, and is not, an issue.

“I don’t give a damn about skin color,” Sarno said. “My responsibility is to hire the best person no matter what creed, color or background.”

Sarno noted that he hired Springfield's first black chief of staff, and the state's first Latino elections official.

Read the proposed resolution below.

City of Springfield, Massachusetts, Proposed Resolution February 5, 2018
WHEREAS, the City of Springfield strives to be a diverse and inclusive world class urban community where people unite to form a caring, learning, participating, sustainable community, and
WHEREAS, the City of Springfield has a racially, ethnically and culturally diverse population and more than 61% of our residents are Hispanic/Latino, African-American, Asian-American or multi-racial, and
WHEREAS, the City of Springfield operates as a Plan A form of government which is a “Strong Mayor” form of government that in turn grants many powers to the Mayor’s department heads, and
WHEREAS, only 5 of the 26 department heads currently employed by City of Springfield are from a diverse background, and
WHEREAS, there is room for improvement in the area of diversity among department heads in City of Springfield; in order to have a municipal workforce that truly reflects the community’s diverse makeup, and
WHEREAS, the economic and social benefit of having a diverse workforce in organizations from top to bottom has been proven time after time, and most institutions have formal protocols, processes and policies in place to promote diversity within their workforce because of that, and
WHEREAS, most large American institutions; private, public and non-profit have formal protocols, processes, policies and positions in place to promote diversity within their workforce including diversity at the executive level,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Springfield City Council strongly urges the Springfield Executive Branch to work together with the Council to identify ways to diversify Springfield’s cabinet of department heads so that it better reflects the population of our City, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Springfield City Council offers its full support in helping take the necessary steps to increase diversity among city department leadership—whether it is devising a comprehensive targeted recruitment plan, increasing professional development opportunities for existing employees, or other innovative ideas.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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