Steamboat continues efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion |

Steamboat continues efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion

Council members feel training could help them better serve city

A proposed location for a new fire station would include city hall and an adjacent parking lot. The new fire station and the city offices would be combined into a new city-owned facility. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Out of 160 Steamboat Springs city employees who responded to a diversity, equity and inclusion survey, most said they felt engaged, a sense of belonging and respected.

According to the survey, 78% of respondents reported feeling engaged, 73% felt a sense of belonging, and 76% felt respected. Still, the survey showed the city has room for improvement with many employees from underrepresented groups reporting they did not feel welcomed or included.

Some respondents reported feeling like they had to hide or change pieces of their identities. Some employees also stated that they did not understand the push for diversity, equity and inclusion, or why the city is choosing to spent time and money on the effort.

“We really need to educate folks on why we’re doing this,” said Wendy Ecklund, Steamboat’s human resources and risk manager. “We need to pay attention to those groups with lower satisfaction and understand why they feel the way they do and what we can do about it.”

In 2020, Steamboat Springs City Council hired Beyond Inclusion Group, a Boulder-based diversity, equity and inclusion consultant in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Since then, two city council members have met several times with a social justice coalition comprised of community members from marginalized groups. Each department head across the city also participated in a multi-day training with the consultant, which Ecklund said was useful for the team.

“Going into this training, there was a lot of anxiety and unknowns, and we came away with a lot more awareness of what this is, a lot more knowledge of why this was important,” Ecklund said. “It really shifted attitudes and goals.”

Moving forward, Ecklund told city council members at their Tuesday, Jan. 11, work session that the city is hoping to take more action.

“At first, I think people were worried that we were going to start hiring people based off of diversity only and not off of qualifications,” Ecklund said. “What this really, truly is, is all of our employees from every background feeling heard and having a voice at the table.”

Council will now receive a half-day training from the organization, as council members decided it would help them better serve the city.

“I like the direction we’re going with,” said council member Heather Sloop. “I want to be sure that we’re focusing in on not only just a teaching lesson, but what we can do to navigate this into our goals and broader perspectives.”

Ecklund also recommended the city outline long-term goals, which council members wanted to ensure remain part of a continuous effort, rather than just boxes to check.

“‘I don’t like the word, ‘wins,’” said Sloop, referencing language suggested city staff. “I’m wondering if they could be ‘goals and hurdles to overcome.’ I think it’s always going to be something that we grow with and continue to jump over hurdles as they come through each department.”

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