Making Strides in Embracing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Sara Baxter

Monday, July 11th, 2022

Freddie Broome is a man constantly on the move. As the Director of Equity and Inclusion for the Georgia Municipal Association, he traverses the state consulting with cities big and small on how to best make communities diverse, inclusive and equitable and a place where everyone wants to live, work and play.

He does this through Embrace, an equity and inclusion initiative created by Georgia City Solutions (GCS) in 2021. In his role, Broome delivers training, workshops and other services to help cities incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion programs or initiatives in their communities with the goal to provide cities with the tools they need to be successful and supported in their mission.

At just a little over a year old, here’s a look at what has been accomplished through the Embrace initiative so far.

Bringing Cities Up to Speed

Since Embrace launched, Broome has provided training to 12 cities around the state, from Tifton to Cartersville to Augusta and everywhere in between. In some cities, he’s trained the entire staff; in others he’s focused on just one department. He’s also worked with cities that already have DEI officials and programs in place.

“We are not a ‘one size fits all’ program,” Broome explains. “We can tailor programs and services to the city’s needs. Our Embrace program is committed to educating and nurturing employees, members, cities, businesses and community organizations to embrace differences to benefit everyone.”

All in all, he has held 180 training sessions, reaching nearly 5,000 people.  

Broome recently presented a program during a Meriwether Chamber of Commerce meeting, providing basic training for city and county officials and staff, and representatives from the school board, community leaders, the business community and the local college.

“This was an excellent opportunity to bring everyone together to understand the importance of embracing differences and encouraging belonging by fostering relationships to better serve the Meriwether County community,” says Broome.  As a result of the training, a county-wide committee was formed made up of city and county leaders as well as representatives from business and the community. This program allowed us to reach a broader audience and bring city and county stakeholders together.”         

To help facilitate the community focus groups, GMA partnered with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). Broome and Corinne Thornton, a DCA regional representative, are working with the cities of Greenville, Manchester, Woodbury, Warm Springs and Luthersville as they conduct community conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion. Each city focus group is a part of a county-wide initiative where government, business and community leaders work together to create an inclusive county.

Quardez Warrior, a city council member in Manchester, is one of the officials leading community guided conversations in his city. By facilitating small group discussions, he listens to what residents have to say, gathers information and will report back to the committee.

“We are taking a proactive approach,” Warrior says. “We are assessing the climate around DEI and starting a dialog.”

While he knows these conversations are important, Warrior also acknowledges that improving DEI in his city and county goes beyond just discussion. “Work has to be done beyond sitting at the table,” he says. “We need to put action behind what we’ve learned.”

A New Perspective for the Newly Elected

Another new program Broome created in 2021 was a DEI training course for the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute that was incorporated into the required Newly Elected Official training offered through the Carl Vinson Institute in partnership with GMA. Since its creation, nearly 600 newly elected officials have participated in the training. In the session, Broome introduces the definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion, the road blocks to achieving it, cultural competence and ways to embrace change.

Some of the lessons hit home for Melissa Bayardelle, who was elected to the Hiram City Council in 2021. One of the topics covered was microaggression, and she learned that what she might consider benign remarks were actually forms of microaggression.

“I gained a deeper understanding of how we must be mindful of the choice of words that we use when we communicate with others,” says Bayardelle. "As elected leaders, we must choose our words carefully when engaging others in our community.”

 “The training was a good reminder that in our roles as elected officials, we have to be aware of these issues, and seek out situations where we can make a difference,”  adds Susan Bailey, a new member of the Remerton City Council. “If you are aware of the diversity in your community, it will help you make good decisions that impact everyone.”

Mario Avery served as mayor of Fairburn from 2010 to 2018 and was elected to a third term last fall. He says he gained valuable information on the procurement process and how it fits into the framework of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We want a diverse workforce, but we also have to have an equitable opportunity for minority and female owned businesses to participate in the bidding process,” he says. “This training helped me understand the importance of that.”

What’s New in 2022

Building on the foundation laid in 2021, GCS continues to expand its services and programs to promote and improve cities’ DEI efforts. One such new program is the Municipal Government Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate Program. Offered under the Embrace umbrella, the program is designed to provide municipal leaders with tools and resources to combat institutional and systemic racism, injustice and inequity. The program is divided into seven modules in which participants will explore the areas of inclusive leadership, financial management, public safety, economic and community growth, community engagement and developing inclusive workforces. It culminates with a DEI capstone learning project.

Registration for the DEI Certificate program will start this summer, with the first class expected to begin in November.

On the recommendation of GMA’s Equity and Inclusion Commission, GMA created a standing Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council to oversee the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations as well as propose additional initiatives, programs and policies as needed. The Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council is co-chaired by Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby and Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar. The Advisory Council is comprised of 28 members representing GMA’s 12 districts.

The Commission also recommended developing a Municipal Equity and Inclusion Certification Program administered by GMA in partnership with Georgia City Solutions. This program recognizes cities that adopt policies and practices to promote equity and inclusion within their municipal government as well as the communities at large. Cities may achieve certification based on seven categories: Workforce housing, education, health and well-being, public safety and restorative justice, community and economic development, workforce development and employment, and community dialog/stakeholder engagement. To meet each city’s individual challenges, GMA is offering four tiers of certification that can be achieved based on the number of categories – from two to all seven – a city chooses to address. This program will get underway in fall 2022.

For more information about any new or existing initiatives through Embrace, please visit the website or contact Freddie Broome.